The National Council for Human Rights launched a platform that invites stakeholders to discuss the right to freedom of expression.
Rotterdam – The National Council for Human Rights (CNDH) in Morocco launched a platform dedicated to the freedom of opinion on May 14. TaabiratRaqmya.ma will facilitate debate between experts, citizens, and various other stakeholders regarding the right to freedom of opinion and expression and the limits of such freedom.
“The right to freedom of expression is a fundamental right in itself and also a right that enables the realization of other rights and freedoms. On this basis, freedom of expression is described as the cornerstone of every society in which freedom and democracy prevail,” said the president of the CNDH, Amna Bouayach, in a press release yesterday.
The launch of the Taabirat Raqmya (Digital Expression) platform addresses the conclusion of CNDH’s 2019 annual report on the state of human rights in Morocco. The report deemed expanding freedoms in the public sphere the biggest challenge for Morocco’s “emerging democratic institutions,” highlighting the importance of freedom of expression in the digital sphere.
Human Rights Watch called on Morocco to release “freedom of speech convicts” in February. The international NGO stated that “the authorities should immediately free those who are being detained for exercising their right to freedom of expression and drop the charges.”
According to the human rights watchdog, Morocco imprisoned at least 10 activists between September 2019 and February 2020 for “peacefully expressing critical opinions via Facebook posts, YouTube videos, or rap songs.”
The activists’ charges included showing “a lack of due respect for the King,” “defaming state institutions,” and “offending public officials.” Although Morocco’s 2016 Press and Publications Code does not punish controversial speech with prison terms, the activists were prosecuted under the Penal Code.
“There is a difference between freedom of expression and opinion, and committing a crime sanctioned by the law,” stated former government spokesperson Hassan Abyaba.
Morocco ratified the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) in 1979. The international law protects activists expressing nonviolent criticism of state officials and policies.
The CNDH aims to open a public debate in Morocco for all concerned actors to engage and weigh the transformations associated with freedom of opinion and expression, especially on social media platforms. The debate, the council hopes, will help find ways to ensure Moroccans’ freedoms without compromising their private lives.