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Morocco: Another Blogger Imprisoned

A solidarity banner from the freebashir.org site

A solidarity banner from the freebashir.org site

On Monday, December 14th, Blogger Bashir Hazzam and Internet cafe owner Abdullah Boukhou were sentenced to four months and one year, respectively plus a fine of MAD 500 (USD 63) each, in a Goulmim court. Hazzam was sentenced for “spreading false information harmful to the kingdom's image on human rights,” while Boukhou's sentence was for similar reasons and likely included a charge for providing a space for spreading those information. Three other students have been sentenced to six months and given a fine of MAD 5000 (USD 632) along with Bashir and Abdullah for an un-authorized sit-in in the city of Taghjijt.

Bashir Hazzam has been accused of “spreading false information harmful to the kingdom's image on human rights” after being arrested on December 8th, reported the Committee to Protect Bloggers, stating:

Moroccan blogger Bashir Hazem was arrested on December 8, 2009 following a protest in Tarjijt, during which students clashed with security forces, after posting a press release about the clash on his blog.  He has been interrogated about his blogging, specifically his most recent post, which contained the signatures of a committee of arrested students.

ANHRI, The Arabic Network for Human Rights Information, denounced the arrest of the blogger Bashir Hazzam. Reporters without Borders (RSF) denounced and questioned why the sentence was given at a time when the Moroccan government is putting in place a program to promote internet access, information society and digital economy:

Alors que le gouvernement marocain a présenté, en octobre dernier, un plan visant à améliorer l’accès à Internet afin de mieux intégrer le royaume à la société de l’information et à l’économie numérique, ces condamnations marquent un retour en arrière et montrent que la liberté d’expression sur Internet ne s’applique pas aux critiques des autorités. La multiplication d’arrestations de blogueurs ces deux dernières années nous inquiète profondément.

While the Moroccan government put last October a plan to improve access to the Internet in order to better integrate the country into the information society and digital economy, these sentencings represent a step backwards and show that freedom of expression on the Internet do not apply to criticism of the authorities. The proliferation of bloggers arrests in the last two years are worrying.

Many reactions have been published on the Blogoma after this new case of imprisoned blogger. Blogger Larbi [FR] published a statement by RSF adding:

Voici donc où nous en sommes : dans un pays qui jette en prison des citoyens pour le seul crime d’avoir exercé pacifiquement leur droit à la liberté d’expression, à la manifestation … Un drôle de pays qui, aussitôt la page des années de plomb tournée, en a ouvert une autre avec son lot d’exactions, de condamnations arbitraires, de violences policières et d’atteinte aux droits humains.

Here we are: in a country that throws people in jail for the crime of peacefully exercising their right to freedom of expression and demonstration … A strange country that, once the page of the years of lead has been turned, has opened another [page] with its share of abuses, arbitrary sentencing, police violence and human rights violation.

Blogger and human rights activist Samira Kinani reported on a demonstration in solidarity with Bashir Hazzam and other opinion detainees in front of the Moroccan parliament in Rabat on December 15th. The demonstration was broken up by police. Ibn Kafka [fr], blogger and lawyer, published photos from Samira's blog and commented:

… les compagnies mobiles d’intervention (CMI) tabassent de paisibles femmes quadra- ou quinquagénaires, sans aucune gêne – imaginez ce que ça peut être avec de jeunes hommes à Taghjijt.

… mobile intervention companies (CMI) beat peaceful women in their forties or fifties, with no discomfort – just imagine what it could be with young men of Taghjijt.

Other bloggers are expressing their solidarity with Bashir Hazzam. Kacem El-Ghazali [Ar] who blogs at bahmut, writes:

نتضامن مع المدون البشير حزام ورفاقه…. مستنكرين ما طالهم من اعتقال تعسفي تحكمي ومطالبين باطلاق سراحهم والاستجابة لمطالبهم… في مغرب العهد الجديد، عهد الحريات والديموقراطية، مغرب الخطابات الرسمية التي ما تلبث أن يماط اللثام عن حقيقتها، لتبقى مجرد تهافت يتهافته كل من له مصلحة في ذلك، ومنفعة في استمرار واقع الظلم والاستبداد والتدجين

In solidarity with the blogger Bashir and his comrades, deploring what affected them from arbitrary arrest, demanding their release and respond to their demands, in the Morocco of the new era, the era of freedom and democracy, as state the official mottos. Those mottos appear on their real aspect, to be just empty mottos to anyone who has interest, and benefit from the continued reality of injustice, oppression and intimidation.

A campaign to help free blogger Bashir and his comrades has been launched. A Facebook group [Ar] was created to support blogger Bashir Hazzam along with a website, Free Bashir, and a Twitter account. A Flickr photo campaign has been set up too; those photos can be sent via the Facebook group or to freebashirhazzem@gmail.com.

In a recent post, Naoufel [Ar]  wonders if blogging is the first step to prison:

لابد أنك -في يوم ما- سألت عن التدوين.. و كيف تصبح مدونا.. و لا بد أنك وجدت عشرات الأجوبة المختلفة.. الغبية منها و المقنعة ..أمنحك الان جوابا غبيا اخر : التدوين هو أول خطوة الى السجن

You must have – one day – asked about Blogging .. And how to become a blogger .. And you must have found dozens of different answers .. convincing and stupid ones .. now I give you another stupid answer: Blogging is the first step to prison.

I hope this will never be the case in Morocco.

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