Communications Ministry: Freedom House’s Net Freedom Report is Biased

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Rabat – Morocco’s Ministry of Culture and Communications responded, “The ranking of Freedom House is devoid of accuracy and objectivity.”

The NGO’s annual Freedom on the Net report for 2018 was released on November 1.

The report noted the government’s crackdown on online news outlets and imprisoning of journalists and activists for their involvement in the Hirak protests in Al Hoceima.

The research mentions Moroccan journalist Hamid El Mahdaoui, editor in chief of news site Badil Info. A Moroccan court sentenced El Mahdaoui to 3 years in prison in June for “inciting participation in banned [Hirak] protests” and “threatening national security.”

In response to Freedom House, the ministry’s communications department stressed that the report presented inaccurate and biased information, maintaining that it had failed to present arguments and include the “positive” indicators that would rank Morocco higher among countries with digital freedom.

The report addressed the difficulty of creating a news website in Morocco, recalling the Ministry of Communications’ refusal to grant press cards to Mohamed Ezzouak, founder of Yabiladi, and Ali Amar, founder of Le Desk.

The ministry responded by emphasizing that under the “legal protection of confidentiality of sources,” the press and publishing law guarantees the practice of journalism. The ministry also noted that there were 349 electronic newspapers in Morocco in 2017, compared with 98 in 2015.

Regarding freedom of the press in Morocco, the report says that the state can shut down publications “prejudicial to Islam, the monarchy, territorial integrity, or public order” and issue prison sentences and heavy fines on publishers of infringing content.

The ministry stressed that the freedom of the digital press is “constitutionally guaranteed,” and freedom to create news sites is reflected in the increase of “the number of portals ending with ‘.ma,’ which jumped from 73 in 2016 to 129 in 2017.”

The report found that despite the state’s strong control over media content, it did not block or filter any political, social, or religious websites or other sites discussing controversial issues. The ministry agreed, saying the state did not register any case of ban or seizure this year.

Morocco is distinguished by its diversity and “total freedom” to launch e-papers, the ministry stated.

The report monitored the internet freedom in Morocco from June 1, 2017, to May 31, 2018. According to the research, not much has changed since the 2017 report as Morocco maintained its score, 45 out of 100.

Freedom on the Net assesses 65 countries, covering 87 percent of the world’s internet users worldwide, and tracks developments in internet freedom each year.

Read Also: Freedom on the Net: Moroccan Internet Users Are ‘Partially’ Free

Morocco’s Ministry of Culture and Communications responded, “The ranking of Freedom House is devoid of accuracy and objectivity.”

The NGO’s annual Freedom on the Net report for 2018 was released on November 1.

The report noted the government’s crackdown on online news outlets and imprisoning of journalists and activists for their involvement in the Hirak protests in Al Hoceima.

The research mentions Moroccan journalist Hamid El Mahdaoui, editor in chief of news site Badil Info. A Moroccan court sentenced El Mahdaoui to 3 years in prison in June for “inciting participation in banned [Hirak] protests” and “threatening national security.”

In response to Freedom House, the ministry’s communications department stressed that the report presented inaccurate and biased information, maintaining that it had failed to present arguments and include the “positive” indicators that would rank Morocco higher among countries with digital freedom.

The report addressed the difficulty of creating a news website in Morocco, recalling the Ministry of Communications’ refusal to grant press cards to Mohamed Ezzouak, founder of Yabiladi, and Ali Amar, founder of Le Desk.

The ministry responded by emphasizing that under the “legal protection of confidentiality of sources,” the press and publishing law guarantees the practice of journalism. The ministry also noted that there were 349 electronic newspapers in Morocco in 2017, compared with 98 in 2015.

Regarding freedom of the press in Morocco, the report says that the state can shut down publications “prejudicial to Islam, the monarchy, territorial integrity, or public order” and issue prison sentences and heavy fines on publishers of infringing content.

The ministry stressed that the freedom of the digital press is “constitutionally guaranteed,” and freedom to create news sites is reflected in the increase of “the number of portals ending with ‘.ma,’ which jumped from 73 in 2016 to 129 in 2017.”

The report found that despite the state’s strong control over media content, it did not block or filter any political, social, or religious websites or other sites discussing controversial issues. The ministry agreed, saying the state did not register any case of ban or seizure this year.

Morocco is distinguished by its diversity and “total freedom” to launch e-papers, the ministry stated.

The report monitored the internet freedom in Morocco from June 1, 2017, to May 31, 2018. According to the research, not much has changed since the 2017 report as Morocco maintained its score, 45 out of 100.

Freedom on the Net assesses 65 countries, covering 87 percent of the world’s internet users worldwide, and tracks developments in internet freedom each year.