Pioneers of Change for Development and Culture Association #MAsaktinCH – Morocco
|Freedom of expression: An expression suspended until further notice (Journalist Rania Jelti)
While the world discusses “freedom of information and governance of the internet”, defenders, activists and journalists face repression and restrictions on their work. They are arrested over their Facebook posts or Tweets. Therefore, the Pioneers of Change for Development and Culture Association* launched its Masaktinch* tweet.
|Not just another tweet!
Masaktinch is a national campaign launched by the Pioneers of Change Association to promote and broaden freedom of expression on the internet in Morocco, with support from The Euro-Mediterranean Foundation of Support to Human Rights Defenders (EMHRF). This was in response to the increasing restrictions on freedom of expression on the internet, including social networking sites and digital platforms in general. Human rights defenders and dissidents were arrested over their posts in breach of the Kingdom’s Constitution, which stipulates respect for rights and liberties and guarantees freedom of expression.
|Those who dream of a better homeland organized themselves, focused their energy, and went to work.
Against this backdrop, Pioneers of Change launched an online campaign aimed at promoting wider freedom of expression on social media and putting an end to judicial proceedings, which sometimes amount to imprisonment as a result of expressing one’s opinions via virtual social spaces. The campaign emphasizes that freedom of expression is one of the important foundations of a democratic society, and a key prerequisite of development, as societies cannot attain progress unless each citizen feels empowered to speak freely and candidly without fear of the authorities’ retribution or the society’s control. The campaign aimed to expand freedom of expression and create free digital spaces where people could speak up without being “dragged” to interrogation afterward.
For the “internet not to be an open rage for violations”, the campaign stressed that digital culture had become a reality, and digital journalism became available to all career and non-career journalists to express their opinions without restrictions. It further emphasized that social networks and websites have become the main gateway for expressing opinions and publishing information without censorship, which raises the issues of ethics, professionalism, and credibility as the priority considerations that ought to be respected by those who want to practice digital journalism. The campaign called for a sound regulatory setting that encompasses all the guarantees of different rights and freedoms, alongside the recognition of the legitimacy of digital journalism, in accordance with Morocco’s obligations under international conventions and standards that guarantee freedom of expression in general, and in the digital space in particular.
|Although the constitution recognizes rights and freedoms, “we are witnessing considerable deterioration in respecting them, as media outlets and journalists face constant restrictions that amount to prosecution, arrests and banning peaceful demonstrations.”
The Association believed that digital freedom of expression was at the heart of its objectives, which seek to promote a culture of solidarity for the enhancement of human rights, and hold that restriction imposed on digital freedom of expression is only an indication of further restriction on broader freedom of expression and on other fundamental rights and freedoms.
|From a hashtag to forcing the government to back down on enacting the 22.20 bill.
|An inspiration for activists and advocates of digital freedom of expression in Morocco.
The Pioneers of Change Association’s initiative to widen digital freedom of expression, which was launched in 2018 in partnership with the Moroccan Association for Human Rights, was joined by various community groups, websites, activists, journalists, and defenders. The initiative subsequently turned into a national digital campaign to defend freedom of expression. The campaign’s name, “Masakinch” became a well-known hashtag in Morocco and was covered by news websites, media outlets, and radio stations, among others. Several web pages were also created under the same name and turned into various projects. The hashtag led to the holding of many seminars and meetings in partnership with other institutions and supporters, such as Adalah [Justice] Association, the UNESCO Office in Morocco, as well as Article 19.
100 person received direct and indirect capacity-building training for young people on freedom of expression. The campaign conducted intensive training sessions and produced 4 advocacy videos on digital and broader freedom of expression. The training programs included enhancing leadership and communication skills, information on national legislations and international conventions concerning freedom of expression, in additional to capacity building in content creation and podcast technologies
|The campaign turned into a number of training projects for defenders and activists on digital expression advocacy.
In 2020, the project was further developed with the addition of training in public policy and the issuance of policy papers to enable the activists to attain the comprehensive knowledge that they need on social media and digital platforms. Additional policy papers concerning the problems and challenges faced by defenders will be issued, then a special guide to digital freedom of expression will be prepared.
The campaign led to public discourse on this issue and affirmed that the homeland is all about “voice, diversity, and freedom”, and that freedom of digital expression is a fundamental right that ought to be respected.
The campaign contributed to pressuring the government to back down on enacting the 22.20 bill, which, had it been passed, would have restricted digital freedom of expression and imposed harsh penalties on activists and bloggers. Masaktinch became the number one trending national hashtag each time activists are arrested or sentenced as a result of them having exercised free speech.
The Association believes that there exists an organic relationship between online activism and movements on the ground for democratic change. “If the freedom of expression is lost, freedom can no longer be achieved, and human rights and dignity will not be guaranteed. It is our duty to fight for the exercise of these rights without fear or illegal interference in order for all to live in an open and equitable society where people can enjoy their human rights and obtain justice.”
|The Pioneers of Change Association was established in 2014. It works in the fields of culture, development, migration, human rights and gender. Its main objectives include training young people and building their capabilities and skills; working to promote a culture of solidarity and cooperation; working to promote human rights values through enhancing awareness of their importance in building citizenship; Supporting women’s issues and participation, in pursuit of socio-economic development; and, contributing to the creation of a pluralistic space, through supporting and developing modernist culture and encouraging intercultural dialogue.
HRW: Morocco: Crackdown Against Freedom of Expression (available in Arabic only)