The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) today condemned the arrest in Casablanca this week of director Abderrahim Ariri and reporter Mostapha Hurmatallah of the publication Al Watan Al An.
They were detained for questioning by police after the publication at the weekend of a report entitled "The Secret Reports Behind the State of Alert in Morocco" dealing with classified documents from the country’s intelligence services (DGST) which contained information about threats involving Al-Qaeda's North African branch.
More than 20 Moroccan secret service agents stormed the Al Watan Al An offices, in search of evidence. Many documents and some equipment were taken away.
“This raid and the arrest of our colleagues raises serious fears for press freedom,” said Aidan White, IFJ General Secretary. “We condemn these attacks because they will only create an environment of fear in journalism. We urge the authorities to release Ariri and Hurmatallah.”
The leadership of the Syndicat National de la Press Marocaine (SNPM), the IFJ’s Moroccan affiliate echoed the Federation’s concerns. “Legitimate as these inquiries may be, nothing can justify the appalling methods used to raid the premises and to detain the journalists,” added Younes M’jahed, General Secretary of the SNPM. who was elected Vice-President of the IFJ at its congress in Moscow last month.
The IFJ says that the journalists’ right and duty to look for information and report it depends upon legal protections, but Morocco lacks specific legislation regarding protection of sources and access to information. At the same time, the country raised its state of alert to the highest level on 6 July, after authorities said they detected a terrorist threat.