Rachid Nini Wins the Oxfam/Pen Award, As a Recognition for His Ordeal Behind Bars

Rachid Nini Wins the Oxfam/Pen Award, As a Recognition for His Ordeal Behind Bars

By Loubna Flah

Morocco World News

Casablanca, January 21, 2012

The first politically independent and non religious development organization, Oxfam Novib, in association with Pen International, granted the Moroccan journalist Rachid Nini the Pen award in its annual ceremony held in the Hague. The name of Rachid Nini was announced in the Oxfam Novib ceremony while the Moroccan journalist is still secluded in solitary confinement. Al Massae, the Moroccan daily newspaper founded by Rachid Nini, published in its Friday issue that the Nini is persecuted even in jail where he is banned from writing. Sources close to Al Massaee revealed also that the journalist meetings with his family are restricted and don’t exceed 30 minutes per week.

The Pen awardees list includes notorious writers and journalist who have been harassed and jailed for their writings, but who remained unflinchingly committed to Human rights and democracy credentials, such the Iranian blogger Asieh Amini who was jailed for five days for supporting a fellow activist in a street protest. Other names such as the Mexican journalist Jesús Lemus Barajas, Russian journalist Mikhail Bekhetof and (jointly) Sudanese newspaper founder and editor Alhaj Warrag and columnist Abdul Moniem Suleman were awarded.

Tom Van Der Lee, director of advocacy and campaigns at Oxfam Novib, said of the Awards: “it’s important to internationally recognize and honour courageous champions of free speech and daring journalism with the Oxfam Novib / PEN Award.”

Located in Hague in Netherlands, Oxfam Novib was founded in 1956 and has today 350 staff members. It has six filed offices in different countries where aid programs are coordinated and implemented. Founded in 1921, Pen International is considered as the largest writers, essays and poets congregation in the world. It is entitled to promote freedom of thought, linguistic rights, peace and cross cultural dialogue. The Moroccan centre of Pen International was inaugurated in 2004 by Abdelkebir Khatibi.

Nini’s cause has gained momentum among Human rights associations across the globe such as Human Right Watch and Oxfam Novib to name only a few. Moroccan journalists and activists have repeatedly urged the new government to release Nini and condemn any infringement on freedom of speech.

Nini was convicted by the Casablanca Court of First Instance, on June 9 for having “gravely offended” public officials, accusing public officials of violating the law without providing proof and offending the judiciary or discrediting its rulings or trying to influence the courts.”

The incarceration of Nini in a juncture supposed to mark a rupture with “old” practices can be interpreted as an ambivalence position towards the issue of human rights in Morocco. The consolidation of individual liberties and high officials’ accountability were strongly advocated by Moroccan youth movement who spearheaded protests movement that sparked last year.

Nevertheless, the appointment of Mustapha Ramid, a seasoned lawyer and Human rights activist, has been well received by civil associations operating in the realm of Human rights. The new government showed good faith by releasing the Moroccan Rapper and member of 20th February movement Mouad “al Haked “who has pointed repeatedly in his songs to corrupt cronies that still pull the strings in Morocco.

Will the new government hasten the release of Rachid Nini, a resolute journalist who earned the wrath of high ranked official in the country? Whether the new government channels its efforts in this direction or not, Rachid Nin like al Haked have become inextricably related to the struggle for real democratic change in the country.

© Morocco World News

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