On 17 September 2013, Mr Ali Anouzla, a prominent journalist, human rights defender and editor of the online newspaper Lakome, was arrested in Rabat after being summoned for interrogation by the Moroccan authorities. Lakome’s offices were raided and Ali Anouzla’s personal laptop was confiscated.
Lakome is a Rabat-based independent newspaper with a focus on civil liberties and human rights. It describes its mission as protecting the right to access information and true reporting, as well as “defending freedom of expression, and the values of citizenship and human rights”.
Ali Anouzla is a long-standing independent journalist, political analyst and human rights defender. His articles often shed light on the practices of the Moroccan government and the ruling family, including human rights violations in Morocco and the Western Sahara territories.
According to the warrant summoning the human rights defender, his arrest is related to a video that was published on the Francophone version of Lakome, which was a video by the Islamic Maghreb branch of Al Qaeda, despite it being alongside a disclaimer by the newspaper that this was a propaganda video published for journalistic reasons. The Arabic version of the site only posted a link to the video, and not the video itself.
Ali Anouzla has faced judicial harassment by Moroccan authorities in the past. In 2009, a Casablanca Court tried the human rights defender following a complaint filed by then Libyan President Muammar Gaddafi in relation to an article which described the manner of his coming to office as “a coup”.
The same year, Ali Anouzla, who was Managing Editor of the independent daily Al-Jarida al-Oula at the time, was sentenced to a two-month suspended jail term and a fine of 200,000 dirhams (approximately €17,900) for “defamation” and “insulting the judiciary” alongside the paper’s Publishing Director Jamal Boudouma.
This sentence followed a series of repressive incidents and lawsuits against the paper – including a fine of 160,000 dirhams (approximately €14,300) in a trial which Ali Anouzla had not been given notice to attend – as a result of publishing a news story reporting that a relative of the King had allegedly shot a traffic officer.
Front Line Defenders is concerned at the arrest of human rights defender Ali Anouzla as the criminal charges against him are motivated directly by his legitimate and peaceful activities in defence of human rights, notably his work reporting on human rights violations.