Moroccan Rapper Sentenced to Prison for “Defamatory” Song
The May 11 sentencing of a Moroccan rapper to prison for insulting the country's police force draws further attention to Morocco's deeply flawed defamation law and its use for stifling freedom of expression by both citizens and the press.
Mouad Belghouat, known as El-Haqed or “The Sullen One,” was sentenced to one year in prison for his song, "Dogs of the State." He was arrested on March 29 following a filed complaint by Morocco’s Director General of National Security, and questioned about photos appearing in a YouTube video posted in January that featured the song. The photo montage was deemed offensive to the monarchy and Morocco's public institutions, but fellow activists argue the rapper had no role in creating the video. Freedom House condemns El-Haqed’s conviction and urges his release.
According to the Associated Press, El-Haqed was an outspoken participant in the February 20 Movement, a youth-led protest movement that organized major demonstrations beginning on that date in 2011, as the Arab Spring citizen revolts were reverberating across North Africa. While King Mohamed VI has introduced token constitutional reforms to placate protesters, the country continues to have a poor record on freedom of expression, earning a rating of Not Free in Freedom House’s Freedom of the Press 2012 survey. In February 2010, blogger and activist Boubaker al-Yadib was sentenced to six months in prison for encouraging a protest in defense of freedom of expression, and the government has been known to occasionally disrupt websites and crack down on any content that is deemed offensive to the monarchy.
Morocco is rated Partly Free in Freedom in the World 2012.
Freedom in the World 2011: Morocco
Freedom of the Press 2011: Morocco