At the time of writing more than 10,117 people have signed the petition, including public figures.
Rabat – Thousands of activists, including public figures, have signed a petition against a recently-adopted bill on the use of social media, broadcast networks, and similar means of communication.
Aavaz published the petition today, criticizing the lack of public knowledge regarding draft decree 20.22. Moroccan YouTube users and journalists had shared leaked provisions from the bill, sparking an online controversy.
Officials approved the initial legislation on March 19 but the public did not know about its contents until the April 28 leaks.
“The government is preparing to pass bill 22.20 related to the use of social media, open broadcast networks and similar networks, away from the constitutional values based on participatory approach,” the Avaaz petition reads.
The document emphasizes that all signatories declare their absolute rejection of the bill, which they claim poses a “clear danger to the human rights system” and to freedom of speech.
Article 14 of the pending legislation stipulates that anyone who calls for a boycott against a specific product or service in public or through social networks, undermining public order, should receive a prison sentence ranging between six months and three years, as well as a fine between MAD 5,000 and MAD 50,000 ($500 to $5,000).
At the time of writing, more than 10,110 individuals have added their signatures.
Many others condemned the bill, emphasizing that it threatens freedom of speech and restricts their activities and opinions on social media. Alongside the petition, activists are using other digital means, such as Facebook and Twitter, to protest the development.
The draft decree has angered those people who supported the 2018 boycott against companies that hiked up some consumer prices, exceeding their purchasing power. The campaign proved successful, and companies such as Danone Centrale, Sidi Ali, and Afriquia Gas were forced to comply with popular demands after witnessing revenue declines.
The new legislation would limit this type of campaign going forward, which is upsetting those who participated.
In addition to protesting the bill’s implications, activists have also condemned that authorities did not publish the draft decree’s content in an official bulletin. They also criticized the government’s lack of consultations with the public, as the bill affects citizens directly.
Moroccan YouTube influencer Mustapha Swinga, who searched in vain for the draft decree and posted his critical response online, said that deviation from the standard government procedure of officially publishing approved draft bills sparked his worries.
بغيت ندير غير واحد التوضيح صغير في هاد البوسط بخصوص مشروع قانونو 22.20
لي خلاني نمشي نقلب عليه هو :
انه وعلى غير…
Government response to controversy
Minister of Justice Mohamed Benabdelkader explained that the government adopted the text of the draft decree on March 19, but did not yet submit the legislation to parliament.
He said that the bill will not be approved before going through several phases.
For its first next round of review, the bill “was placed in the hands of a technical commission which will have to specify the content,” Benabdelkader said.
A ministerial committee will then debate the law before its adoption.
The minister argued that such a procedure is regular “when it comes to controversial bills, which do not enjoy unanimity within the government itself.”
Benabdelkader explained that there is still “no final version,” and that Head of Government Saad Eddine El Othmani will eventually submit a finalized bill to parliament.
Minister of Human Rights Mustapha Ramid echoed Benabdelakder’s statement in a Facebook post today, April 28. He pointed out that the government council issued a statement after meeting to discuss the law on March 19, saying that the council had “approved the project, and that it [will] be reviewed in light of the comments of ministers by a technical committee and then by a ministerial committee.”
It remains to be seen whether parliament will reject or eventually approve the draft bill.
A similar controversy emerged after Morocco adopted Law 44.18 on mandatory military service in the summer of 2018.
Under the law, men between the ages of 19 and 25 are the subject to 12 months’ service in the military, exempting those with financial dependents or disabilities.
When the law was still in its early stages as a draft bill, controversies and debate mounted across the country. Citizens condemned the lack of public information on the law before its adoption.