Morocco: Ministry of Communications confirms that journalists are allowed to cover protests in rural areas "freely"
Demonstrators chanting in front of the Moroccan security forces during a march challenging the ban imposed by the authorities in the Moroccan city of Al Hoceima
The Moroccan Ministry of Culture and Communication on Monday denied accusations by Reporters Without Borders of obstructing media coverage of protests in the rural area of ​​the north of the country, describing it as "barefoot." The ministry said in a statement that Morocco allowed Moroccan and foreign journalists to carry out their work "without interference by the public authorities and without any effect ... on the content of the coverings."

Moroccan authorities on Monday rejected accusations by Reporters Without Borders that they blocked months of coverage of protests and unrest in the Rif region in the north of the country.

According to a statement issued by the Ministry of Culture and Communication on Monday, the "allegations" of the press freedom organization and journalists "are baseless, lacking credibility and lack of evidence."

She confirmed that 89 accredited correspondents working for foreign media in Morocco had "all the necessary permits" to complete their normal work "freely and in normal conditions" throughout the country.

She added that Morocco allowed journalists to carry out their work "without interference by the public authorities" and without "any effect whatsoever, on the content of the coverage carried out by Moroccan and foreign journalists around the clock, about the situation in the city of Al Hoceima."

However, the ministry acknowledged that the authorities had taken legal action against one journalist accused of "inciting people to commit misdemeanors and calling for participation in a demonstration after its prevention."

Al-Hoceima was sentenced to three months in prison last month for Moroccan journalist Hamid al-Mahdawi for calling for "participation in a banned demonstration," according to the news website he runs.

The journalist, who heads the news website Badil, was arrested before a banned demonstration in Al Hoceima, the stronghold of the protest movement that shook the Rif region in the north of the kingdom.

According to BADIL, the court sentenced Mahdawi to three months in prison and a fine of 20,000 dirhams (1,800 euros).

During the banned demonstration on July 20, police in Al Hoceima fired tear gas to disperse the protestors and dozens were arrested, including Mahdawi.

At the time of the demonstration, the Internet was slowed down and sometimes disconnected, while the telephone network was turbulent throughout the city, "complicating the work of journalists in the area," Reporters Without Borders said.

The authorities have arrested seven citizens who have been acting as journalists in the countryside in recent months.

In July, Reporters Without Borders issued a statement accusing the Moroccan authorities of preventing journalists from covering events in the countryside, specifically in the city of Al Hoceima.

"By wanting to prevent media coverage of the rural revolution, the Moroccan authorities have gradually made this region an area that has no right to independent media," said Yasmine Cacha, the North African bureau chief for the organization.

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