RAN 32/11 21 June 2011
The Writers in Prison Committee of PEN International (WiPC) protests the one-year prison sentence and fine handed to Almasae editor Rachid Nini on 9 June 2011, apparently in retaliation for his articles criticizing government policies and official corruption. He has reportedly gone on hunger strike in protest at prison conditions. The WiPC believes that Nini has been jailed merely for exercising his right to freedom of expression and calls for his immediate and unconditional release.
Rachid Nini (40), editor of the daily Almasae, one of Morocco’s leading newspapers, and owner of Al-Massae Media Group, was sentenced to one year in prison and a 1,000 dirham (88 euro) fine on 9 June 2011. Detained since 28 April, Nini was tried on charges of “undermining a judicial decision”, “attempting to influence a judicial decision” and “reporting on untrue criminal offences” under various articles of the penal code. He intends to appeal the verdict, which rights groups have denounced as politicised. Nini’s lawyer said: “This is a clear warning to journalists, so that they feel threatened when they exercise their freedom of expression.”
Nini’s arrest in April followed his publication of several articles criticizing the counter-terrorism practices of the Moroccan security services, including prison sentences handed down after unfair trials against Islamists. He is frequently critical of government policies in his articles and has written about widespread corruption among government officials. He has often called for the repeal of Morocco’s anti-terrorism law and for increased political freedom.
The editor is being held in Okasha prison in Casablanca, where he reportedly began a hunger strike on 13 June in protest at prison conditions. He is demanding access to the mosque to pray, to paper and pen and to be able to call his family. He has also complained of constant searches of his personal belongings by prison authorities.
According to Nini’s sister, Noura, the editor is the main breadwinner for his family, including six siblings, his mother and his 11-year-old daughter.
Nini’s prosecution comes despite promises of political and human rights reforms made by King Mohammed VI in March in response to demonstrations since 20 February inspired by the events in Tunisia, Egypt and Libya. The king’s latest proposals for reforms, announced on 17 June, have been rejected by protesters as not far-reaching enough.
•Appeal by Amnesty International calling for Nini’s release – NB – take action online (10 June 2011): http://www.amnesty.org/en/appeals-for-action/free-moroccan-journalist-rachid-nini
•Reports on Nini’s sentence by Reporters Without Borders (http://en.rsf.org/morocco-casablanca-court-sentences-09-06-2011,40433.html) and the Committee to Protect Journalists (http://www.cpj.org/2011/06/politicized-prison-sentence-for-moroccan-editor.php) (both dated 9 June 2011)
•Report by the BBC on King Mohammed’s proposed constitutional changes (20 June 2011) http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-africa-13827502