Morocco shuns international recommendations on civic space
Morocco’s worrying response to its recent UN Universal Periodic Review (UPR) in September 2017 has contributed to growing concerns over the authorities' respect for human rights. The country rejected several UPR recommendations, many of which cover civic space as well as the rights of vulnerable groups. For instance, the recommendation calling for "establishment of procedures for registration of civil society organisations and bringing registration mechanisms in line with international standards" was partially rejected, whereas the recommendations related to "refraining from prosecuting journalists under laws other than the Press and Publications Code" was completely rejected.
Both international organisations and domestic civic groups alike have expressed concern after Moroccan authorities revised 44 of the recommendations, among which it partially rejected 18 and completely rejected 26. Local groups noted that many of the recommendations which were not accepted sought to protect individual rights or the rights of women.
In September, Morocco quietly rejected 44 of 244 recommendations made by the @UN Human Rights Council—all of which pertained to #womensrights or individual rights. #genderequality @UNHRCPR https://t.co/rhV82LBoUm— IWHC (@IntlWomen) November 19, 2017
Press freedom and access to information remains a serious concern in Morocco. In November 2017, Media Ownership Monitor in Morocco was released by Le Desk and Reporters Without Borders. This monitoring report sheds light on the level of transparency within the Moroccan media market. In particular, the Media Ownership Monitor has found that the state's concentration of power over media outlets is a threat to freedom of expression, noting that:
“While the state monopoly over the broadcasting sector was set to disappear following the liberalisation process started in 2006, radios and TVs remain largely under its control”.
Brutal protests from 2016 have continued to cause controversy in Morocco. The death of fishmonger Mohcine Fikri in 2016 sparked protests in Al Hoceima which led to the arrest of 400 people, 360 of whom are still in prison. In late September 2017, the leader of the protest movement Nasser Zefzafi launched a hunger strike for several weeks with thirty other detainees. Domestic and international observers have grown increasingly concerned over Zefzafi's health after being held in solitary confinement for over 176 days. The conditions of the detained protesters have drawn international condemnation from high-profile activists and members of the European Parliament.
During the first anniversary of the protests in October 2017, Moroccan authorities banned all protest activity in public areas. The ban was issued in response to calls on social media for a fresh wave of street demonstrations to mark the 2016 protests.