Outrage in Morocco after Al Jazeera Arabic dismisses renowned presenter Abdessamad Nacir over 'Algeria tweet'
The union says that the network’s Arabic-language service "unfairly" dismissed Nacir based on a tweet he published in April "defending Moroccan women", in which he accused an Algerian news segment of alluding that the Moroccan state "traffics its women’s honour and dignity".
Nacir’s sacking "damages the channel’s credibility and empties its slogans on freedom of expression, publication, independence of journalists and defence of their dignity of all meaning, turning them, in the process, into hollow currency", the union said.
🚨 Le licenciement de @NacirAbdessamad, par la chaîne qatari #Aljazeera, est révélateur de l’engagement de ce média dans des agendas bien définis, et qui se heurtent au patriotisme indéfectible du journaliste marocain !#كلنا_عبد_الصمد_ناصر #مقاطعة_الجزيرة pic.twitter.com/9Z7Al7A8zP— Ali KETTANI (@Alikettanii) June 1, 2023
Nacir was reportedly ordered to delete the tweet by Al Jazeera Arabic’s news director, which he refused to do, arguing it was a matter of "freedom of expression outside the framework of the channel", the SNMP said, as reported by popular Moroccan news site Hespress.
The SNPM added that the same director requested that Nacir deletes the tweet or at least modify it so that it wouldn’t be seen as "an attack on the Algerian state".
The network’s management further warned that should Nacir refuse to comply with the network’s request, they would be obliged to take "dissuasive measures" against him.
ما أنبلكم وما أطهر قلوبكم أيها الأحبة.— عبد الصمد ناصر (@NacirAbdessamad) June 2, 2023
شكراً شكراً لكم بحجم الكون، لنبلكم وفيض مشاعركم وتضامنكم ودعمكم.
أنا حقاً عاجز عن وصف تأثري وسروري بما غرمتموني به من كرم مشاعركم ومحبتكم ودعائكم.
"لو أبصَر المؤمن ما خَفي من لُطف ربّه، لأستلَذ البلاء كما يَستلِذ العافية."
Despite the warnings, the Moroccan presenter insisted that his tweet was "exercised within the practice of freedom of expression" that had "nothing to do with Al Jazeera.".
The network subsequently terminated the long-time presenter’s contract, which the SNPM called "abusive", while it remains unclear when Nacir was sacked, the Moroccan press union released their statement condemning the move on Thursday.
The union, in its statement, accused Algeria of being involved in the presenter's dismissal, saying that there is "an Algerian lobby inside and outside the channel, guiding these sordid games".
Nacir’s dismissal has triggered an outpouring of support from Moroccan journalists and citizens online.
Many took to Twitter to express solidarity with the broadcaster under French and Arabic-language hashtags such as #Abdessamad_Nacir_Represents_Me and #SupportAbdessmadNacir.
"The dismissal of @NacirAbdessamad by the Qatari channel Al Jazeera reveals the outlet’s commitment to well-defined agendas, which come up against the unfailing patriotism of the Moroccan journalist [in question]," researcher Ali Kettani wrote.
Meanwhile, former Moroccan Prime Minister Saad Eddine El Othmani also tweeted in solidarity with the presenter.
Nacir also took to Twitter to convey his gratitude towards those who have shown support for him. "[Huge] thank you, thank you, for your generosity, overflowing feelings, solidarity and support," he said on Friday.
Nacir served as a presenter for the Doha-based channel since 1997, and was widely regarded as one of the "faces" of the broadcaster, having covered the 9/11 attacks, the US invasion of Iraq and Israeli assaults on the besieged Gaza Strip.
The presenter’s dismissal comes amid tensions between Morocco and Algeria. Algeria severed its ties with its neighbour in 2021, following tensions relating to the disputed Western Sahara territory, where Rabat controls 80 percent of the territory.
Tensions between Algiers and Rabat have also been exacerbated by Morocco’s normalisation of ties with Israel in 2020, which was condemned by much of the Arab world.