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Recent Blogger Arrests a Troubling Trend in the Middle East/North Africa Region
December 18, 2009
Freedom House condemns the recent arrests and sentencing of Moroccan blogger Hazzam El Bachir and internet café owner Abdullah Boukfou and calls for their immediate release without harm. The events in Morocco reflect a troubling trend by governments in the Middle East and North Africa Region to use traditional means of repression to clamp down on bloggers and human rights activists.
El Bachir was sentenced on December 15 after he posted a previously-published article about a harsh government crack-down of a student protest in Taghjijt. El Bachir received a four-month sentence for "spreading false information about human rights that undermined the kingdom's image." Internet café owner Boukfou receiveda 12-month sentence on a charge of "possession of publications inciting racial hatred." Three student protesters also received six month sentences the same day.
"We are troubled by the increasing incidents of blogger harassment in Egypt, Morocco and Tunisia where governments act with impunity and hide behind oppressive laws that shield them from criticism," said Jennifer Windsor, executive director of Freedom House. "Freedom House applauds the brave bloggers and journalists in the region who are boldly campaigning for their release despite potential repercussions to themselves."
In recent months, there have been a growing number of similar incidents including Wael Abbas, a blogger from Egypt who has been subjected to harassment by government authorities including detainment when trying to enter and exit the country. This week he was sentenced to six months in absentia which he is currently appealing. Additionally, during and following the recent Tunisian election, a prominent blogger and journalist was brutally beaten and his equipment confiscated.
Morocco and Tunisia are ranked Not Free in the 2009 version of Freedom of the Press. Egypt is ranked Partly Free in the 2009 version of Freedom of the Press.
For more information on Morocco, Egypt and Tunisia visit:
Freedom House, an independent nongovernmental organization that supports the expansion of freedom in the world, has been monitoring political rights and civil liberties since 1972.
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