Hassan Barhon: yet another Moroccan blogger sued for defamation

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Moroccan blogger and anti-corruption journalist, Hassan Barhon, who has been arrested since February 25th for exposing a corruption case involving the prosecutor-general for the king of Morocco at Tetouan’s court of appeals, Mohamed Masmouki, is due to appear before a court in Tetouan today.

Barhon circulated a petition calling Mohamed Masmouki, the prosecutor-general at Tetouan’s court of appeals, a “dangerous criminal” “undermining people’s sacred beliefs and the state institutions”. The petition, which has been signed by scores of journalists, bloggers and activists, called for the need to put Mohamed Masmouki on a “popular trial”.

According to the CPJ, blogger “Hassan Barhon was charged under Article 263 of the penal code with defaming a “member of the judicial body.” ” If convicted, Hassan Barhon could face up to five years in prison:

The Moroccan authorities must stop criminalizing freedom of expression and punishing critical bloggers and journalists […] Morocco cannot pursue criminal proceedings for defamation, which is a civil matter, while at the same time claiming that the country continues to make progress in the field of press freedom.

Through his initiative “Journalists Without Limits“, Hassan Barhon is very active in exposing corruption and alleged collusion with criminals and drugs baron by local government officials. Hassan also offers video clips on his Dailymotion and YouTube‘s channels.

Hassan Barhon is not the first Moroccan to be arrested for peacefully expressing his views online. Last year, two young Moroccan were arrested and sentenced for their online activities. On February 5th, 2008, Fouad Mourtada, the 26-year old IT engineer, has been arrested and sentenced to three years in prison and a fine of $1350 for creating a fake Facebook profile of King Mohammed VI’s younger brother. On march 19th, 2008, Fouad got a full royal pardon and left the Oukacha Prison (Casablanca). On September 05th, 2008, blogger Mohammed Erraji's was arrested and sentenced to two years imprisonment and a fine of $626 for “failing to respect the king”. Erraji was released on September 18th after a court of Appeal in Agadir dropped all charges against him on the grounds of procedural irregularities in the previous trial.

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