Tunisian NGOs Call Upon Moroccan Authorities to Release Independent Newspaper Editor and End Criminalization of Freedom of Expression

Tunis, 27 May 2020

 
The undersigned Tunisian associations call upon the Moroccan authorities to release Slimane Raïssouni, editor-in-chief of the independent newspaper Akhbar Al-Youm.  They also call for an end to the fabrication of criminal cases used as a tool to silence journalists and human rights activists as well as to criminalize freedom of expression and the press.
 
Slimane Raïssouni was arrested near his home in Casablanca on 22 May 2020 and appeared on 25 May before the king's deputy prosecutor in the Casablanca Court of Appeal.  The investigating judge charged him with "violent and indecent assault and forced detention" and ordered his detention in Oukacha Prison, until a hearing for detailed questioning on 11 June, according to media and human rights sources.
 
Raïssouni's arrest came eight months after his colleague Hajar Raissouni, along with her fiancé, was granted amnesty from King Mohamed VI, while serving one year in prison for allegedly having an “illegal abortion.”  According to Arab and international human rights groups, the trial fell short of meeting international standards for a fair trial and violated Morocco’s international commitments.   
 
Raïssouni’s trial also comes less than two years after another court ruling violating the Constitution of the Kingdom of Morocco and its commitment to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.  This ruling condemned Akhbar Al-Youm’s founder and director, Taoufik Bouachrine, to 12 years in prison for "trafficking in human beings, violent and indecent assault, rape, attempted rape and sexual harassment,” among other fabricated charges.
 
A 2019 appeals court judgment increased the 12-year sentence handed to Bouachrine by an additional three years.
The United Nations Working Group on Arbitrary Detention found that depriving Bouachrine of his liberty was unfair, and called on Moroccan authorities to release him and pay reparations for the harm he suffered. (See: https://www.ohchr.org/Documents/Issues/Detention/Opinions/Session83/A_HRC_WGAD_2018_85.pdf)
 
The Moroccan association Freedom Now on 22 May condemned the arrest of Slimane Raissouni and called for his immediate release, and for the authorities to respect the Moroccan Constitution, which upholds freedoms and abides by international commitments.  Freedom Now considers that his arrest was foretold "because of his highly critical editorials," and the defamation campaign to which he was exposed in pro-government media.
 
The signatory NGOs reaffirm that the protection of freedom of expression and freedom of the press in Morocco and all Arab states is a fundamental condition for eradicating corruption and despotism that are eroding their institutions and threatening them with increasing regression.
 
Signatory associations:

  • Association History and Common Memory for Freedom
  • Attajdid Forum for Progressive Thinking
  • Beity (My Home)
  • Civil Coalition for Individual Freedoms (40 associations).
  • Committee for the Respect of Freedoms and Human Rights in Tunisia
  • Democratic transition and Human Rights Support center (DAAM)
  • Hassen Saadaoui Foundation for Democracy and Equality
  • National Union of Tunisian Journalists
  • No Peace without Justice 
  • Organization 10-23 support for the Democratic Transition Process
  • Organization against Torture in Tunisia
  • Perspectives el Amel Tounsi
  • Tunis Centre for Press Freedom
  • Tunisian Association for the Defense of Academic Values
  • Tunisian Association for the Defense of Individual Freedoms
  • Tunisian Association of Democratic Women
  • Tunisian Coalition for the Abolition of the Death Penalty          
  • Tunisian League for the Defense of Human Rights
  • Tunisian Union of Community Media
  • Tunisian Women Association for Research and Development
  • Vigilance  for Democracy and the Civic State