Internet censorship in Morocco
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Internet censorship in Morocco was listed as selective in the social, conflict/security, and Internet tools areas and as no evidence in the political area by the OpenNet Initiative (ONI) in August 2009. Freedom House listed Morocco's "Internet Freedom Status" as "Partly Free" in its 2013 Freedom on the Net report.
In its Freedom on the Net 2013, Freedom House reports that between May 2012 and April 2013:
- Filtering of numerous websites and online tools was lifted as the government introduced liberalizing measures to counter rising discontent heightened by the events of the Arab Spring;
- Restrictive press and national security laws applied to online media sites lead to self-censorship.
- Several online users were arrested for comments and videos posted to Facebook, YouTube, and blogs.
In 2009 Internet access in Morocco was, for the most part, open and unrestricted. Morocco’s Internet filtration regime was relatively light and focused on a few blog sites, a few highly visible anonymizers, and for a brief period in May 2007, the video sharing Web site YouTube. Testing by the OpenNet Initiative revealed that Morocco no longer filters a majority of sites in favor of independence of the Western Sahara, which were previously blocked. The filtration regime is not comprehensive, that is to say, similar content can be found on other Web sites that are not blocked. On the other hand, Morocco has started to prosecute Internet users and bloggers for their online activities and writings.
Causes of censorship
As there have been no judiciary decisions one can only speculate about the reasons sites are blocked. However, some patterns emerge and it seems that the blocked sites are often related to the Polisario movement claiming independence of Western Sahara, to Islamist extremists and fundamentalists, to carrying non-official or subversive information about King Mohammed VI such as parodic videos in YouTube. Morocco also blocked some sites that facilitate circumvention of Internet censorship.
Google Earth, Skype, and YouTube
There have been reports that Google Earth, Skype, and YouTube have been intermittently blocked in Morocco since at least 2006, but they were all found to be accessible in tests conducted in mid-2013. Since, the blocking is not systematic and consistent in time and region, it is difficult to be sure of a particular site's status and Morocco's main ISP denies that they knowingly block these services, citing technical glitches.
When videos judged offensive to the king were posted on YouTube, Maroc Telecom decided to ban the site, without basing its act on a judiciary decision. This led to an immense uproar among the Moroccan blogosphere (also called Blogoma or Blogma) and Moroccan internauts as well as the printed press, as the site was immensely popular. Some days later Maroc Telecom lifted the ban. The public reaction was one of the founding events of the consciousness and the fight against Internet censorship in Morocco.
Targuist Sniper case
An anonymous person calling himself the "Targuist Sniper" from Targuist, a small Berber town in northern Morocco, posted several videos of good quality on YouTube showing Moroccan police officers, one after another, accepting cash bribes from truck drivers and potential smugglers. The videos generated wide debate on the press and discussions on the Internet, but they were never mentioned in the state media. Many were seeing them as a new way of cyberactivism by fighting the widespread corruption in the government institutions.
The videos led to the arrest of nine corrupt policemen and the transfer of others.
Fouad Mourtada case
Fouad Mourtada is a 26-year-old Moroccan engineer who was sentenced by a Casablanca court to three years in prison for creating a fake profile of the king’s brother on Facebook. He was convicted on February 23, 2008 of “villainous practices linked to the alleged theft" of the Crown Prince Moulay Rachid's identity. Fouad was sentenced to 3 years of jail plus a fine of 10,000 Moroccan Dirhams. But on the evening of 18 March 2008, Fouad was released by a royal pardon after spending 43 days in jail.
Independent media platform Lakome.com was blocked in Morocco starting from 17 October 2013. The editor of its Arabic version Ali Anouzla, has been held in pre-trial detention since 17 September 2013. The site administrators migrated the French version to another domain—Lakome.info and lako.me—which was briefly accessible on 18 October, but was later blocked. Due to over-blocking, some popular websites using cloud hosting such as Heroku, Pinterest and Instagram were also briefly blocked.The block reportedly impacted only Rabat.
On 22 October Reporters without Borders mirrored the censored website on its domain name (Lakome.RSF.org). Additionally it addressed a message to France's Minister of Foreign Affairs Laurent Fabius, asking him to mention the case of Anouzla in his meeting with his Moroccan counterpart.
- "ONI Country Profile: Morocco", OpenNet Initiative, 6 August 2009
- "Morocco country report", Freedom on the Net 2013, Freedom House. Retrieved 19 October 2013.
- "YouTube site 'blocked' in Morocco", BBC News, 29 May 2007
- "Morocco's 'video sniper' sparks a new trend", Layal Abdo, Menassat, 12 November 2007.
- "Jail for Facebook spoof Moroccan". BBC News. 23 February 2008. Retrieved 5 May 2010.
- Laila Lalami (21 February 2008). "The Fake Prince of Facebook". The Nation. Retrieved 18 October 2013.
- "Morocco 'Facebook prince' pardon". BBC News. 19 March 2008. Retrieved 4 January 2011.
- "Sometimes a Link Is Just a Link: Free Ali Anouzla!", Jillian C. York, Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF), 17 October 2013. Retrieved 19 October 2013.
- "Aboubakr Jamai, co-fondateur de Lakome et directeur de publication de sa version francophone, s'exprime sur le dernier communiqué d'Ali Anouzla et sur sa décision de maintenir les sites en activité" [Abubakr Jamai Lakome co-founder and editor of the French version, speaks about the latest release of Ali Anouzla and the decision to keep the sites active]. Lakome (in French). 18 October 2013. Retrieved 19 October 2013.
- "#FreeAnouzla : Maroc Telecom… tu es vraiment trop con" [# FreeAnouzla: Morocco Telecom ... you're really too stupid]. Reflets (in French). 19 October 2013. Retrieved 19 October 2013.
- "Censure folle de l'internet au Maroc" [Crazy internet censorship in Morocco]. Lakome (in French). 19 October 2013. Retrieved 19 October 2013.
- "Reflets.info est censuré par @Maroc_Telecom : #FreeAnouzla" [Reflets.info is censored by @ Maroc_Telecom # FreeAnouzla] (in French). 19 October 2013. Retrieved 19 October 2013.
- "Comment bien merder sa politique de censure du net, tout en faisant chier un maximum de monde ?". Korben. 21 October 2013. Retrieved 21 October 2013.
- "RSF et le Comité de soutien demandent à Laurent Fabius d’évoquer le cas d’Ali Anouzla lors du “dialogue 5+5”". Reporters without Borders. 22 October 2013. Retrieved 22 October 2013.
- A study conducted by the OpenNet initiative about Internet censorship in the MENA region (Middle East and North Africa).
- Interview with Moroccan Internet activist Mohamed Drissi Bakhkhat, regarding the Internet filtering situation in Morocco, October 2007.
- A Taguist Sniper Video on YouTube.