By Basma Boukbib
Rabat – The court of Al Hoceima has sentenced journalist Hamid El Mahdaoui to 3 months of prison and a fine of MAD 20,000 Tuesday morning, after a 15-hour trial.
On July 20, the day of a banned mass march in Al Hoceima calling for the release of detained Rif activists, police arrested the journalist and editor-in-chief of the website Badil Info for “inciting for participation in a banned protest” and “breaking the law through speeches and shouting in public places.”
While authorities have insisted the arrest had nothing to do with Elmahdaoui’s journalistic background, organizations like Reporters Sans Frontières and the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) have condemned the arrest.
CPJ Middle East and North Africa Program coordinator Sherif Mansour said, “Moroccan authorities should release Hamid El Mahdaoui and drop all charges against the journalist.”
The night before his arrest, El Mehdaoui appeared in a video talking to a group of people in Al Hoceima and criticizing the government for arresting and prosecuting activists from Hirak protest movement in the Rif region.
In the statement announcing El Mehdaoui’s arrest, the city’s public prosecutor said that the journalist’s speech was“incompatible with journalism as a profession dealing with collecting information and facts or investigating about them in a professional way in order to write or make media material,” according to the definition of journalism in Moroccan press code.
The journalist is known on social media for his videos shared on social media, in which he criticizes the government.
Several Moroccan journalists condemned his arrest on social media, calling for his release.
Parliamentarian and member of the opposition Istiqlal Party (PI) Adil Benhamza criticized the prosecution of El Mehdaoui on the basis of the penal code instead of the press code.
“We still keep on not weighing down the dangers facing our country. I express my full solidarity with El Mehdaoui and other detainees,” wrote Benhamza.
Journalist Mohamed Hafid questioned the charges against El Mehdaoui, saying that, on basis provided by the public prosecutor, all leaders of political parties and politicians and members of labor unions who called on people to take part in the July 20 march in Al Hoceima should be arrested and prosecuted.