Amnesty denounces trial over FB post of Moroccan journalist Hanane Bakour
Amnesty International denounced on Monday the trial of Moroccan journalist Hanane Bakour over online comments she made against the ruling party and called on Moroccan authorities to immediately drop what the human rights group described as an "absurd case".
"It is shocking, heavy-handed and absurd that a journalist faces criminal charges over a Facebook post that was critical of Morocco's main political party," Heba Morayef, Amnesty International's regional director for the Middle East and North Africa, said in a recent report.
On Monday, Bakour faced the Tribunal of First Instance in Sale (next to Rabat) for the eighth time since she was accused of "publishing fake news by using electronic means that harm private life" in 2021. She faces up to three years in prison and a fine.
The charges stem from a complaint from the majority party, the National Rally of Independents (RNI), in September 2021.
At the time, Bakour wrote in a Facebook post, "How can the president of the region of Guelmim-Oued Noun, M'Barka Bouaida, a member of RNI, agrees to vote during the regional council's presidency while Abdelouahab Belfkih, a former regional candidate in the council presidency election, was dying?"
Belfkih was severely wounded by a gunshot in his house and died shortly after the incident. He was a member of the Party of Authenticity and Modernity (PAM) and a candidate for the regional presidency elections.
His party dropped its recommendation for his candidacy a few days before the gunshot incident. He reportedly shot himself with a hunting rifle.
On Monday, Bakour doubled down on her criticism of the ruling party of RNI, accusing Prime Minister Aziz Akhannouch of being "personally" behind her trial.
"In today's session, it was confirmed by concrete and conclusive evidence that the Prime Minister is the one behind my follow-up. Where his defence submitted a (...) document bearing Akhannouch's signature," wrote the journalist in a Facebook post with a picture of the signed document.
After the trial, the journalist stressed her right to free expression and said she was prepared to face all the consequences for speaking up against the ruling party. She is being tried while free.
"I believe in my right to freedom, and this faith is stronger than every weapon," added the journalist after the trial.
The RNI party has yet to publicly comment on the trial.
Hanane Bakour has been a journalist for 17 years. She worked in several Moroccan outlets including Akhbar Al Youm, Al Massae and Al Jarida Al Oukhra. Until 2021, she was the editor-in-chief of the online website alyaoum24.com.
In 2022 alone, Moroccan authorities investigated, prosecuted and imprisoned at least seven journalists and activists for criticising the government, as well as others who spoke online about religion or expressed solidarity with activists, according to Amnesty International.