The international journalism watchdog accused Moroccan police of preventing a television journalist from filming, an allegation Moroccan authorities have flatly denied.
Dorset – Morocco’s national police force (DGSN) have denounced a statement from Reporters Without Borders (RSF), calling claims that police impeded a journalist from filming in Tiflet “false allegations.”
The DGSN said the RSF did not fact-check the information before releasing a statement about the allegations.
On Thursday, May 7, the international journalism watchdog released a statement calling on Moroccan authorities to sanction police in Tiflet, near Rabat, for “unacceptable behaviour.”
The statement from the North Africa director at RSF, Souhaieb Khayati, accuses Moroccan police of using intimidation tactics against journalists from Al Amazighiya TV who were filming a documentary in a local market.
RSF accused the local police of physically assaulting journalist Soued Wasef and cameraman Mohamed Bouljihel. According to the statement, the commander of the local police force pushed Wasef to the floor. Bouljihel allegedly sustained injuries to the arm as he tried to stop police from confiscating his camera.
RSF representative Khayati underlined in his statement that the alleged incident was the first of its kind in Morocco since the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“The health crisis should not be an opportunity to directly attack journalists who are trying to do their job,” he said.
RSF asked the Moroccan authorities to identify the police officers responsible for the alleged incident and bring them to justice.
The DGSN released a statement today categorically refuting the allegations in the RSF statement. DGSN officers at the regional police station in Tiflet “did not make any intervention against any journalist while on duty,” the statement clarified.
The national police force do not oppose coverage of the COVID-19 pandemic in Morocco and actively facilitate reporting of the national situation for the sake of public interest.
The DGSN is working with Al Amazighiya TV to produce coverage of the security aspects of the fight against COVID-19 in Morocco, the statement added.
Morocco’s national police have “central and regional services in charge of communicating with the media and facilitating the work of journalists.”
The DGSN asked those responsible for spreading the allegations “to check with its services the veracity of the information,” the statement said.
‘Biased’ and ‘inaccurate’
The claims in the recent RSF statement are not the first of its kind. In April 2018, RSF released a global report on press freedoms, ranking Morocco 135th out 180 countries.
The RSF report said it is “very difficult” to practice journalism in Morocco, citing “judicial harassment” as a key factor in its ranking.
The report alleged that Moroccan “authorities deliberately obstructed the national and foreign media that tried to cover the so-called Hirak protests in northern Morocco’s Rif region, as well as reporting on migration, a subject that is now off limits.”
The Moroccan government slammed the report, calling it “biased” and “inaccurate.” The report “does not take account, in an objective and impartial way of the many positive indicators of the climate of openness and freedom” in Morocco, the statement underlined.
Responding to the RSF claims that authorities impeded the work of foreign reporters, the statement clarified that several special envoys carried out hundreds of media missions, “freely and independently, in all Moroccan regions including in the Rif.”
Morocco provided 951 authorizations to international reporters to cover the events in 2017 and had granted accreditation cards to 97 correspondents from 21 countries working in Morocco for foreign media outlets, according to the 2018 statement.
In 2017, Morocco placed 133rd on the RSF ranking. The Moroccan government released a statement to refute claims of using economic and social pressure to stop journalists covering sensitive political issues, calling the allegations “baseless and lacking credibility.”