Protesters in Rabat, Morocco in October, 2016 demand political reforms and an end to corruption. Photo credit: Reuters

Arresting the Protest: Widespread Crackdown on Dissent Undermines Morocco’s Social Movements

Moroccan pro-democracy activists unanimously claim that the freedom of expression won in the months following the 2011 Arab Spring protests has slowly been taken away. State repression and political detention have been an effective way to draw protesters and sympathizers of the movement away from participation. "We are now in a critical situation," explains journalist Imad Stitou. "We understand the message: it’s over with tolerance and openness.”

Moroccans demonstrate in Rabat on February 20, 2011 demanding political reforms. Photo credit: EPA/Karim Selmaoui

“People Are Not Afraid Anymore:” The Legacy and Impact of Morocco’s February 20th People’s Movement

Last month marked the seventh anniversary of the February 20 Movement, a pro-democracy movement born in Morocco in the wake of the Tunisian and Egyptian revolutions. To celebrate the anniversary of one of the most defining events of Morocco’s recent political history, hundreds of protesters took to the streets. “People are not afraid anymore,” said human rights activist and trade unionist Abdellah Lefnatsa. “Everywhere, the population takes its inspiration from the February 20 Movement."

Protests in Rabat, Morocco calling for the release of journalist Ali Anouzla in 2013. Journalist and Al Aoual news website founder Soulaiman Raissouni is pictured in the center. Photo credit: Ilhem Rachidi

The Press and the Palace: Moroccan Journalists Denounce Government Crackdown on Media

Most Moroccan journalists admit they do not cross certain “red lines” in Morocco. These lines include critical coverage of Morocco’s king and his advisers, Morocco’s sovereignty over the Western Sahara territory, Islam, and big businesses tied to the monarchy. In order to survive, self-censorship is mandatory among journalists. “I cannot write everything I want,” explained journalist Soulaiman Raissouni. “Everybody does self-censorship to different degrees.”