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Amid Morocco's Crackdown in Rif, Uses Criminal Defamation Against Press, UN Silent on Both

By Matthew Russell Lee, Video, New Platform

UNITED NATIONS, February 14 – Amid arrests and censorship by Morocco in the Al-Rif region, UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres' spokesman Stephane Dujarric told Inner City Press on June 6, "I should hopefully have something for you tomorrow." But on June 7 when Inner City Press asked, not only did Dujarric not have anything at all - he refused to accept follow up questions, saying "I'm done" and running off the podium. Video here.  Since then, nothing from the UN amid more arrests, more censorship. Now Moroccan courts have convicted journalist Taoufik Bouachrine of criminal defamation in a lawsuit filed by two government ministers and ordered him to pay a fine of $49,000. Bouachrine reported that businessman and Agriculture and Fisheries Minister Aziz Akhannouch and the Economy and Finance Minister Mohamed Boussaid “tricked” then-Prime Minister Abdelilah Benkirane into approving a law that would transfer the financial authority over a federal development fund from the prime minister to the agriculture and fisheries minister. In response, Akhannouch and Boussaid sued for defamation. The UN has said nothing about this, like Rif - in the UN system, FAO has sued the Italian Insider, WIPO's director has sought criminal sanctions for reporting and the UN headquarters restricts Inner City Press while doling out full access to numerous state medias, including Morocco's.  In 2017, Akhannouch filed a criminal defamation lawsuit against independent news website Badil Editor-in-Chief Hamid al-Mahdaoui and the site’s reporter, Hicham al-Omrani, in response to an interview they conducted with a political analyst who criticized Akhannouch. Akhannouch later dropped the charges on appeal. Also in 2015 a Moroccan court ordered the privately owned website Goud to pay 500,000 Moroccan dirhams to the king's private secretary, Mounir el-Majidi, for accusing him of corruption in an article. At the UN back on December 5, Inner City Press once again asked Guterres' spokesman Dujarric about Morocco and the Rif, UN transcript here: Inner City Press: I wanted to ask you, on Morocco, in the unrest throughout this year in the Rif region, who many people describe as a leader, imprisoned, Nasser Zefzafi, was taken to court and essentially passed out and he had been on a hunger strike, and so many people are saying that this is another reflection of this ongoing thing, and Amnesty put out a report last week saying that journalists were arrested covering it are still in jail.  Does the UN or DPA [Department of Political Affairs] or anyone have… are they following this? Spokesman:  We follow all of these situations, but I don’t have any specific language on that for you for today.  Your second question?" Again, nothing. The US, UNlike the UN, has taken note of the nationwide protests about the Rif and Hirak detainees, here: "Parliament Building in Rabat:  Sit-in scheduled at 6:00 p.m. on October 5, 2017 organized by Hirak Branch in Rabat in solidarity with the Hirak detainees... Ennaser Square in Casablanca:  A National rally and protest scheduled on October 8, 2017 organized in solidarity with Rif detainees." Meanwhile Inner City Press and the Free UN Coalition for Access are informed that "the journalist Mr. ELMAHDAOUI is ongoing hunger strike since yesterday till martyrdom due to the injustice of the court who increased his imprisonment from three months to one year. He claimed innocence and check of some evidences to prove this, but the court did not allowed the defendant freedom." In New York, the Moroccan state media the UN gives offices and full access to don't even come into the building, must less ask questions. Today's UN is corrupt - but it is being opposed. On August 18, Inner City Press asked the UN spokesman for the 18th time, UN transcript here. On August 9, Inner City Press asked the UN Spokesman for the 17th time, video here. From the UN transcript: Inner City Press:  I wanted to ask you again about the ongoing situation in the Rif region of Morocco.  One of the people injured during he crackdown with teargas, Imad El Attabi, has died, and there are many people saying that this is a bad development; this is something that it’s still calling for that… that the situation continues to get worse.  So, I’m just wondering, this being the seventeenth time that I’ve asked you about this, is DPA (Department of Political Affairs) considering… looking at that?  I’ve seen…Spokesman:  "I think the various parts of the United Nations are keeping an eye on the situation.  When we have something to say, we shall." On July 20, before interviewing Rif activists outside the UN's gates, here, Inner City Press asked the UN about Rif for the 15th time, UN transcript here: Inner City Press: in the ongoing protests in the Rif Region of Morocco, there's a large protest today by which the Government has responded to by blocking roads, trying to block entry by sea, slowing down the Internet.  And so, I just wanted to know… I know this has come up and at one point, Stéphane [Dujarric] said that there may be something coming down.  Given that, in fact, the protests are growing and the oppression and the number of people locked up has grown, has the Department of Public… excuse me, Political Affairs or the Secretariat taken any note of this? Deputy Spokesman:  "Certainly, we take note of this and I'll check with them about any response." A day later, and after these interviews, there was NOTHING from the UN, despite the use of tear gas, a man in a coma, etc. On July 21 Inner City Press asked again, video here from 16:58; Haq said, "We've asked our colleagues in the Department of Political Affairs. If there's any response, I'll share it with you." UNreal. Inner City Press has received, and in the face of the UN's silence, publishes: "a street demonstration started at 1800 local time, ongoing peacefully as we did during 9 months since the death of Mouhcine FIKRI the fish seller who was mushed by Moroccan authorities in a garbage truck
3- Interventions by Moroccan authorities was the worst one since last June 26th 2017 which was reported to you, the intervention was to impede people assembly at Al-hoceima's central plaza of Martyrs which was previously occupied by all Moroccan authorities cars
4- Tears gas was indiscriminately used against all people and in all popular districts although this is prohibited by international law causing asphyxia and a lot of evacuations to the hospital.
5- Detention of activists included those who were evacuated by ambulances to the hospital, we are informed that in all ambulances there were the Moroccan spies to detain all activists. A lot of people are detained, we do not know the exact number, one known journalist Mr. ELMAHDAOUI was detained for sure.
6- Ms. Naoual BENAISSA an important activist women in the RIF's popular movement is right now at the hospital in dangerous status due to Moroccan authorities blows...
7- Mr. Imad ELATTABI, we are informed last minutes that he is near to death due to moroccan authorities brutal blow by stones or tears gaz bomb, he is evacuated at 0600 am to Rabat's military hospital in critic status." On July 7, Inner City Press asked the UN, Spokesman Dujarric, for the 14th time, video here, UN transcript here. On June 27, after a crackdown on Al Hoceima on the previous day's Eid holiday, Inner City Press asked the UN for the 13th time, video here. This as Moroccan King Mohammed VI has banned some of his ministers from traveling or vacation, claiming it was them who failed to follow through on his royal plan to supposedly address 90% of the residents' demands. Somehow the King didn't realize this during the now more than eight months of protests, as his forces arrested more than 100 people. As in the Bogart movie, the King is shocked - shocked - in Casablanca. On June 21, Inner City Press asked Dujarric's deputy spokesman Farhan Haq, UN transcript here: Inner City Press:  I want to ask you one more thing about the Rif region of Morocco.  I’d asked Stéphane a few times.  It seemed like a comment might be coming down.  Since then, at least two media, one editor of Rif24 has been put under solitary confinement; another one has been sued with criminal defamation charges.  Press freedom groups like IFEX have been speaking about it.  There have been other arrests.  Is it something that… was it just… did it almost give rise to a DPA [Department of Political Affairs] comment?  Is DPA, in fact, looking at this situation which it doesn’t seem to be abating? Deputy Spokesman:  "We’re looking at the matter.  If we have any further comment, I will let you know." On June 15, Inner City Press asked Dujarric about Morocco imposing year and a half jail sentences on 25 protesters, and new French President Macron's comments. UN transcript here: Inner City Press: I wanted to ask you again about the Al Rif region of Morocco, because, since I last asked, sentences have been imposed on a number of the protesters, a year and a half to 25 people, six months to five people.  And French President [Emmanuel] Macron was in Rabat and said that King Mohammed VI — I don't know if that's translated right — stood ready to assuage the issues of Al Rif.  So I'm just wondering, if it's now viewed as international in that way, does the UN have no guidance at all?  What about year-and-a-half sentences to peaceful protestors?  Is that something that the…

Spokesman:  I'm not aware of the details of the particular case.  As I said, when we have something to say, we shall.  Thank you.

 How does Guterres STILL have nothing to say? That is the case- without explaining the now eight day delay, Dujarric repeated when he has something to say he will. But what will it be? On June 14, Inner City Press asked Dujarric, UN transcript here: Inner City Press: I'd asked you in writing about the situation the Rif region of Morocco.  Now there's more than 100 allegedly detained and now allegations of torture of some of those detained.  So, I'm wondering, there's been… Rifians have asked the Human Rights Council or Prince Zeid to send observers.  And I'm just wondering, since a week ago, you said you hoped to have something from DPA [Department of Political Affairs].  Is DPA aware of this?  Are they watching this?  And what do they say about it? Spokesman Dujarric:  "I think we're… as I said, if I have any comment to make on this particular situation or any other situation, I shall make them.  Obviously, if people appeal to the Human Rights High Commissioner, you should follow up with them." That's called passing the buck. On the mornings of June 12 and 13 Inner City Press went more formal, in writing: "On Morocco and Rif, give the large demonstration in Rabat over the weekend and use of tear gas in Rif, at least 86 arrested, reiterating for eighth time Inner City Press' question: what is the SG's or DPAs comment on this, to the Moroccan authorities?" This was not answer before noon, at noon or in the 29 hours and counting after. Meanwhile, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Prince Zeid has been asked for "urgent intervention in order to note in particular the serious violations of human rights perpetrated against the Riffian population especially the militants of the non-partisan and non-violent citizen movement set up seven months ago, since the 29th October 2016 after the death of Mohcine FIKRI crushed in a garbage truck. At this moment, more than 80 activists have been abducted, tortured and detained by the Moroccan authorities, several of them were sent to Casablanca remained without legal assistance for more than five days, and others are detained in the city of Al-Hoceima without any legal assistance in the first three days until their presence before the court of Al-Hoceima. There are strong confirmations that torture has been inflicted on several detainees and confirmed in Al-Hoceima and Casablanca by their Lawyers present at first audience or before the crown prosecutor in Casablanca, and as announced by several detainees in Casablanca before their arrest, they are ongoing hunger strike [and so request by, among others] the European Coordination Committee of support to the popular Movement in the Rif: To deal with this urgent human situation and urge the presence of human rights observers in the region, especially in trial procedures as requested by our Lawyers. To shed full light on the various attacks perpetrated by the Moroccan authorities, which only perpetuates a campaign of reprisals against militants and civil pacific protesters,Protecting the Rif people from state terrorism perpetrated by all the police forces present in the Rif region, we are certain that this would send a strong message to the Moroccan leaders who had been little worried for continuing to perpetrate violent abuses against the Riffian people since decades." Inner City Press also asked Guterres' holdover spokesman Dujarric on June 9, from the UN transcript: Inner City Press: on this issue of Rif,  I want to ask you, now there's the use of tear gas on protesters and at least two journalists have been arrested and taken to Casablanca for questioning, and charges are unclear.  They're from AWAR TV and Rif Press.  I know three days ago you said you'd hoped to get something.  What does DPA [Department of Political Affairs] think about this? Spokesman:  "You know, obviously, as a matter of principle, we believe wherever that people have a right to demonstrate peacefully but, more specifically, I have nothing to share with you." Nothing. Then he refused to say where Secretary General Guterres will be. From the UN June 7 transcript... This is today's UN. At Morocco's "Universal Periodic Review" at the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva on May 2, the representative of the US urged  the Kingdom of Morocco to release detained journalists, and Sweden called on Morocco to respect freedom of the press. This call is apparently not heard by Morocco's Ambassador to the UN Omar Hilale, who even after Inner City Press published a blurring Morocco-AU document at his request used the UNTV microphone to claim that all of Inner City Press' publication are anti-Morocco. Nor is the call heard by the UN, which five days after the back to back stakeouts by Hilale and the Polisario representative has refused to put the latter video online. Inner City Press for the third day -- "question 228" by Hilale's count -- asked Dujarric about the delay; he again offered no explanation despite this same scenario having arisen in the past. From the May 3 UN transcript... Hilale rather than answering used the podium to, as he put it, give some statistics. 6-second Vine Camera video here.

He said that Inner City Press has asked 225 questions about the conflict in the past year - quelle horreur -- and had had the temerity to write 150 articles about it. Inner City Press pointed out that it has written more about other countries, such as these days Cameroon. But Hilale went on from there. Video here. Three days after the stakeouts, the UN Department of Public Information had put on its website only two of the three speakers that evening (May 1 photo here). So on May 1 Inner City Press asked the UN's holdover spokesman Stephane Dujarric, video here, UN transcript here... Here then is a song, Western Sahara Blues, the Ballad of Omar Hilale.

  In front of the UN Security Council's Western Sahara closed door consultations on April 25, Inner City Press asked French Ambassador Francois Delattre why there is no human rights monitoring in the mandate of the MINURSO mission, as urged by for example Amnesty International. Delattre said human rights "is in our DNA," but said there are many ways to work for human rights. Video here.  Now the vote on the resolution, one draft of which is below, has been pushed back from 5 to 5:30 to 6 pm on April 28. Verification of Guerguerat, inclusion or deletion or modification of language in the resolution, below. Up on the UN's 38th floor after a photo op of UK Boris Johnson and Secretary General Antonio Guterres, Inner City Press spotted Uruguay's ambassador. He has been pushing for human rights monitoring, DNA or no DNA. But down at the stakeout of the Security Council, the questions to him concerned mostly a reported missile firing by North Korea. Watch this site. Inner City Press asked about Horst Kohler as Antonio Guterres' nominee as Personal Envoy on Western Sahara. Delattre smiled and answered in German. Then and the next day, as Inner City Press got versions of the draft, Morocco diplomats and state journalists walked freely up and down the UN's 2d floor, while Inner City Press was confined to Department of Public Information minders. After the meeting, Russia's Deputy Permanent Representative Petr Ilyichev said the real work on the MINURSO resolution, which he still expects to be put to a vote on April 27, was at the level of experts, not in the April 25 meeting. Periscope video here.


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