“Morocco is attempting to silence critical journalists”

Written by Marijn Butter

Recently journalists have been rejected entry into Morocco. Amongst those rejected are Dutch Journalists like Gerbert van der Aa. He had to leave Morocco because according to the government he worked there illegally as a journalist. It’s a big issue El Kaddouri says. Journalists who wrote about the Hirak in a positive way received a prison sentence, a prohibition on publication or really excessive fines. Sometimes the government creates rumors about journalists in which they are called sex offenders and abuse their dominance. “Morocco is very clever when it comes to creating so to say ‘evidence’ to attempt to silence critical journalists.”

Habib El Kaddouri (45) lives in Utrecht and was born in Morocco. He lived there until he was 16 years old. In this period of time Hassan II was the king of Morocco. The population was suppressed, and human rights were violated on a large scale. El Kaddouri was already very interested and involved in politics and used to demonstrate against the suppression. He eventually left to reunite with his father who left to work in The Netherlands a few years prior.

He works for ‘Het Samenwerkingsverband Marokkaanse Nederlanders’, for the urban advisory body ‘Saluti’ and for the municipality of Utrecht. His work deals with a lot with diversity, emancipation and citizenship of the Moroccan community.

According to El Kaddouri everything seemed to go well after Mohammed VI, the son of Hassan, became King of Morocco 20 years ago. Mohammed married a woman who was emancipated and fought for women rights. He says: “Of course, the Moroccan government promoted this story of the emancipated queen intensely to show Morocco was on its way to a modern democracy”.

Habib El Kaddouri says aspirations of becoming a modern democracy didn’t last long. As a reaction on the Arab Spring the government changed its laws and all the power remained with the king. Freedom of press was minimalized after the Arab Spring and there was an increase in convictions of journalists.

Over the last few years Morocco has started to make the Hirak, a mass protest movement that has taken place in the Berber-speaking Rif area in north Morocco, journalists look bad. El Kaddouri says “The government of Morocco says the Hirak is driven by foreign countries and gets financial support from these countries. This results in mosques and imams in the Netherlands supporting the Moroccan regime and believing the Hirak wants to destabilize Morocco instead of promoting social rights.”

El Kaddouri worries about Morocco. He thinks his country of origin is deteriorating when it comes to freedom and democracy. “It’s never been a democratic state and it never will be as long as they have a king because the king has too much power and will retain this power”

Habib El Kaddouri wants Morocco to have a regime that is alert and which engages with human right such as the right of demonstration and freedom of press. He wants them to draw attention to these human rights, or at least more than they’re doing now.