During search operations, police seized a fake police armband, a digital camera, handcuffs, two guns, a plastic walkie-talkie, and two motorcycles.
Rabat – National security officials in Casablanca arrested two individuals yesterday for impersonating Moroccan police officers and staging a violent arrest in a video shared on social media.
The two suspects, aged 28 and 36, are allegedly involved in disseminating a fake video depicting police violence aimed at undermining citizens’ sense of security, the General Directorate of National Security (DGSN) stated.
In the video, an individual dressed as a police officer stops another posed as a motorist. The “officer” assaults and handcuffs the motorist on suspicion that he breached state of emergency measures, the DGSN continued.
Investigations enabled police to identify and apprehend two of the suspects involved in the dissemination of the video. Police searched the house of one suspect and seized a fake police armband, a digital camera, handcuffs, two guns, a plastic walkie-talkie, and two motorcycles.
The two suspects are in police custody pending the inquiry of the public prosecutor’s office. Investigations are underway to arrest all individuals involved in the crime.
The arrests come after the National Brigade of Judicial Police (BNPJ) of the Ben M’sik district in Casablanca arrested six individuals on May 6 for their alleged involvement in impersonating police officers, filming falsified criminal operations, and spreading the misleading videos to undermine public security.
The suspects in Ben M’sik used motorcycles and walkie-talkies to simulate operations and arrests on public roads in order to share the footage on social media and compromise public trust in police operations, according to the DGSN.
During search operations, police seized wireless communication devices, plastic pistols, and Yamaha T-Max-type motorcycles.
The DGSN did not specify if yesterday’s arrests are related to last week’s case.
Fighting fake news
Since Morocco entered lockdown on March 20, fake news related to the emergency state and its enforcement measures has multiplied, especially as arrests related to violating the lockdown grew to eventually surpass 85,000.
Charges for violations mainly include crowding in public, inciting citizens to gather, and not carrying a legitimate exceptional movement permit.
Fake news related to the pandemic had proliferated even before Morocco entered lockdown or confirmed its first case of COVID-19.
One famous case is that of “Mi Naima,” a Moroccan YouTube influencer. After the 48-year-old woman shared a video claiming that COVID-19 does not exist, Moroccan police arrested her on March 18 for inciting people to not comply with orders and the preventive measures that the government put in place to tackle the spread of the virus.
The day after her arrest, the government council approved Law 22-20 on March 19 related to the use of social media, open broadcast networks, and similar networks. The law serves to criminalize the proliferation of fake news.