At the moment I am reading a compelling book by Lise Garon, Dangerous Alliances: Civil Society, the Media and Democratic Transition in North Africa.
Although the majority of the book focuses on Tunisia (and accordingly is banned for its efforts), there is a chapter or two dedicated to Algeria and Morocco.
The latter, in the view of Garon, is forever engaged in a Sisyphusian task, for every step closer to a democratic opening, several steps are taken in the opposite direction.
Garon does, however, note that the press is slightly freer in Morocco than the rest of the Maghreb; after reading the case of journalist Zinab El Rhazoui today, I’m not so sure.
The scenario that recently unfolded is crazy, unjust and a gross example of intimidation of a member of the press.
The report was quite long and accordingly a gist follows below:
Friday, June 4, 2010 at 5:45 am, the Chief of Judicial Police and the head of the brigade prefecture of Casablanca, with about 15 officers and agents of the Moroccan judicial police, broke down the door of the apartment Casablanca of Zineb El Rhazoui, freelance journalist and co-founder of the Alternative Movement for Freedoms Individual (Mali), who was sitting with Ali Amar, a freelance journalist, founder and former editor of the Journal Weekly (banned by the Moroccan authorities in January 2010), and author of the book “Mohammed VI, the great misunderstanding” (Calmann-Levy 2009), censored in Morocco.
The officers began to photograph the two journalists and the apartment and questioned the nature of their relationship, a topic which they have refused to answer. The two journalists who were in the room, were ordered to undergo a staging by sitting on the bed in the bedroom of Zineb El Rhazoui to be photographed together, when they were in street clothes. The officers continued to take many photographs, of remaining a dinner with two empty bottles of red wine.
They then dismantled the computers and computer peripherals of the two journalists who had just finished a session of work involved in writing articles for the international press. Officers were flipping their documentation work, searched their bags, papers and personal effects. One of the officers ordered an officer to examine the library of Zineb El Rhazoui to determine whether it’s porn.
Before boarding the two journalists at the police headquarters in Casablanca to undergo an interrogation that lasted 12:30 (7am to 19:30), Zineb El Rhazoui asked to go to the bathroom, the police officers responded it could do so only if she left the door wide open. Although there was no physical or verbal abuse at the premises of the judicial police, many questions were asked two journalists on issues related to morality. The Minutes of Zineb El Rhazoui mention of wine consumption and indicates the presence of a condom with her.
And so it goes on.
And so in the name of morality an immorality is perpetuated and two innocent journalists are unjustly humiliated and persecuted.
This is the real Morocco.
This is the reality.
Books may be banned, websites blocked and bloggers and journalists persecuted.
But the truth, particularly in this digital age, will always out.