Dhe European Parliament on Thursday recognized the “continuous deterioration” in press freedom in Morocco complains. It called on the country’s authorities to “respect the right to freedom of expression and freedom of the media”, to grant jailed journalists “a fair trial” and to release them provisionally immediately.
Specifically, MEPs supported three jailed journalists in the motion for a resolution: Omar Radi, Souleiman Raissouni and Taoufik Bouachrine. It was the first critical resolution to the North African country in decades and at the same time a reaction to the corruption scandal in parliament, in which also discount should be involved.
In the application, which was accepted with a clear majority, the MPs themselves made the reference to the scandal. They said they were “deeply concerned” by allegations that government officials had bribed MPs and called for Moroccan representatives to be banned from parliament until further notice.
Parliament had already made such a decision for Qatar shortly after the scandal, in which several Social Democrats are involved, became known. Subsequently, further details from the investigations concerning Morocco became known.
“After 25 years of passivity”
Former MP Pier Antonio Panzeri is said to have received valuable gifts in return for defending Morocco’s interests and hiring colleagues to do so. According to investigators, the Moroccan diplomat Abderrahim Atmoun was the contact person. Panzeri’s wife and adult daughter are said to be involved in the case; the Belgian judiciary has requested their transfer, to which both have appealed. On Tuesday, at the request of Belgium, Italian financial police arrested Monica Rossana Bellini, a tax adviser and accountant for the family, whose office had previously been searched.
This was demonstrated with Thursday’s resolution European Parliamentthat it will be more critical of Morocco in the future. The organization “Reporters Without Borders” welcomed the resolution – “after 25 years of passivity”, as it was critically said at the same time. According to the NGO, nine journalists and three media workers are currently being held in Morocco. Morocco ranks 135th out of 180 on their Press Freedom Index.
Last spring, the appeal process for human rights activist and investigative journalist Omar Radi failed. He was sentenced to six years in prison in 2021 for espionage and rape. Radi reported on the Hirak movement protests and government corruption.
The resolution also mentions Taoufik Bouachrine, who was the editor of the Achbar al Joum newspaper, which has since been closed. He was sentenced to 15 years in prison in 2019 for “abuse” and “sexual assault.” In 2022, an appeals court upheld Souleiman Raissouni, who was the editor-in-chief of the same newspaper, with a five-year prison sentence for “sexually assaulting” a young LGBTQ activist.
Raissouni had the Moroccan King Mohammed VI. criticized and allegations made against the head of the secret service. In the resolution, the European Parliament also expressly calls on Rabat to stop monitoring journalists using the Israeli spy software “Pegasus”.