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Internet Filtering Morocco 2009


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Internet Filtering Morocco 2009

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Internet Filtering Morocco 2009

  1. 1. 2009Internet Filtering inMoroccoOverview Examples include the shutting down of aInternet access in Morocco is, for the most weekly Arabic newspaper, prohibitingpart, open and unrestricted. ONI testing media coverage of trials andrevealed that Morocco no longer filters a demonstrations, restricting the movementmajority of sites in favor of independence of the press and blocking certainof the Western Sahara, which were websites.3 Reporters Without Borderspreviously blocked; however, a small ranked Morocco 122nd out of 173number of blogging platforms and countries in their 2008 press freedomanonymizers were found to be blocked. index.4The filtration regime is not comprehensive, Morocco faces two major issues thatthat is to say, similar content can be found inform its actions regarding the press andon other Web sites that are not blocked. human rights in general: the status ofOn the other hand, Morocco has started to Western Sahara and terrorism. As to theprosecute Internet users and bloggers for first issue, Morocco has vied with thetheir online activities and writings. Polisario Front for control of Western Sahara ever since Spain pulled out of theBackground region in 1976.5 Morocco asserts aThe ascension of King Mohammed VI to historical claim on the region,6 while thethe throne in 1999 marked the end of the Polisario Front asserts the right of self-“Years of Lead,” a period of state determination.7 After decades of fighting,repression under his father, King Hassan both sides agreed to a UN-sponsoredII.1 Despite the taboos broken and ceasefire in 1991 that required anjournalistic hopes raised since then, the eventual referendum on independence innation’s media continues to face the region.8 As of yet, this referendum hasharassment, censorship, prosecution, not been held.9 Despite the ceasefire,hefty fines and jail time for “offending” the reports of overzealous suppression ofking, the monarchy, the nation, territorial peaceful resistance to Moroccan ruleintegrity (particularly in respect to the persist.10 Journalism on the subject hasWestern Sahara), God, or Islam.2 been restricted as well.11RESULTS AT A GLANCE No evidence of Suspected Selective Substantial PervasiveFiltering filtering filtering filtering filtering filteringPolitical Social Conflict/security Internet tools 
Other factors Low Medium High Not applicableTransparency Consistency  1
  2. 2. 2009KEY INDICATORS worst bestGNI per capita, PPP (current international $)……………………......4,555 . .Life expectancy at birth (years)……………………………………………….70.4 …Literacy rate (% of people age 15+)…………………………………………52.3 … …Human development index (out of 177)…………………………………..126 …Rule of law (percentile)……………………………………………………………..51 …Voice and accountability (percentile)……………………………………….…29 … …… ….Digital opportunity index (out of 181)……..……………………………….…68 .… ……...Internet users (% of population)…………………….……………..............32.6 .… …. As to the second issue, terrorism, reflected the impact of deregulation of theCasablanca was the site of a major telecom market with double-digit growthterrorist attack in May 2003 when suicide for the information and communicationsbombers detonated five bombs targeting a technology (ICT) segments on the whole.Jewish community center, a Spanish High-speed (ADSL) Internet services alonerestaurant and social club, a hotel, and sparked unprecedented growth inthe Belgian consulate.12 An anti-terrorism Morocco’s Internet market, which grewlaw which was passed soon after the from 168,000 subscribers in June 2005attacks placed further restrictions on the to 480,000 in June 2007 – an increase ofpress.13 220 percent. The country’s three providers – Maroc Télécom, Méditel andInternet in Morocco Wana – also launched 3G InternetEven though the Internet was first services with speeds of over 3 MB in theintroduced in Morocco in 1995,14 the country’s major cities for USD73 perMoroccan Ministry of Industry, Trade and month (lower speeds are available,New Technologies stated in April 2008 starting at 512 Kb/s for approximatelythat as few as 3.4 percent of the USD25 per month).19population had a computer, only 2,000 Maroc Télécom, the largest InternetMoroccan schools were equipped with ICT, service provider (ISP) in Morocco, offersand only 10 companies engaged in e- wholesale services to other ISPs, followingcommerce.15 The Ministry, describing the Reference Access Offer approved bythese numbers as “alarming,” announced the Morocco’s telecom regulatory body,that it had devised a short-term priority the National Telecommunicationsplan of action to promote competition in Regulatory Agency (ANRT), in Octoberthe ICT field.16 The International 2006.20 Maroc Télécom is a 53 percentTelecommunication Union estimated the subsidiary of European telecom giant2008 Internet penetration rate at 32 Vivendi International and owns 51 percentpercent,17 and an October 2007 UNDP of the historical telecommunicationssurvey indicated that Internet usage in the operators of Mauritania, Burkina Faso,region as a whole has remained low due and Gabon.21to low incomes, high costs, and a lack of ICT growth was largely dominated by ainteresting content.18 553 percent increase in 3G Internet Statistics from the National Telecoms services provided between June 2007 andRegulation Agency (ANRT) in 2007 June 2008. In fact, 3G Internet services 2
  3. 3. 2009accounted for 24 percent of the total are deemed to “disrupt public order bymarket share, compared with 74 percent intimidation, force, violence, fear orfor ADSL broadband Internet. Maroc terror.”30 In recent years, the MoroccanTélécom held a 76 percent market share government appears to have grownin 3G Internet services, relative newcomer increasingly proactive about shutting downWana with 18 percent, and Méditel with 4 newspapers and imprisoning reporters; inpercent. With regard to Internet use January 2007, Morocco’s only monthlyoverall, the number of subscribers magazine written in local dialect wasexceeded 650,000 – a 37 percent ordered shut down for two months afterincrease from June 2007.22 publishing jokes about Islam and a The ANRT expects that the telecoms reporter and editor were given three-yearindustry’s share of the countrys gross suspended prison sentences.31 Also indomestic product will grow from the 2007, a journalist was forced to resign ascurrent 7 percent to 10 percent in 2010.23 managing editor of a weekly newspaper toThe kingdom also set up its first fund to prevent the newspaper being forced topromote innovation in IT as part of a larger pay an impossibly large amount inplan to create more than 30,000 new damages in a libel suit.32direct job opportunities in ICT industries.24 In 2007, authorities stated they would In 2006, Morocco’s existing seek to reform the press law, but theyblogosphere grew exponentially due to have continued to imprison journalists,cheaper Internet access, ADSL availability, seize newspapers and block Web siteand the greater availability of Arabic- access. 33 Though the king has sought tolanguage blogging platforms such as improve his image abroad, he hasMaktoob and Jeeran. In 2006, a local continued to curb the country’splatform called Blogs Jahiz was created,25 independent media. Under strong regimeadding to popular existing platforms such pressure, judges have regularly convictedas Blogger, Wordpress, Skyblogs, and a steady stream of dissidents under thethose previously mentioned. As of 2008, press law for reporting on taboo topicsthe local blogosphere was estimated to such as the monarchy, the army, Islamcontain around 30,000 blogs.26 and independence for the Western Though in Morocco the Internet is Sahara. 34 For this reason, an increasinglargely free of filtering, bloggers and forum number of journalists have thought it bestparticipants generally avoid “red line” to self-censor to avoid any problems.35topics such as the Western Sahara, Government authorities have worked withdefamation of the royal authority, and journalists and editors’ unions to redraftdefamation of Islam.27 Still, bloggers in the press law, but were not inclined tothe kingdom state that they are free to decriminalize many of the chief pressdiscuss almost anything.28 offenses that authorized imprisonment of journalists, so efforts failed and no revisedLegal and regulatory frameworks draft was submitted to parliament.36Current laws criminalize criticizing the The current press law has been usedmonarchy or Morocco’s claim to Western to suppress outspoken online writers. ForSahara.29 The anti-terrorism bill that was example, in September 2008, Moroccanpassed following suicide bombings in blogger and journalist Mohamed ErrajiCasablanca in 2003 grants the was convicted under article 41 of thegovernment sweeping legal power to Moroccan press law of “disrespect for thearrest journalists or to filter Web sites that king” in an article for Moroccan Arabic- 3
  4. 4. 2009language news website Hespress Web site Facebook.42 This case marked( and was sentenced the first conviction in the country for anto pay a fine of approximately USD630 online offense and shocked the bloggingand serve two years in prison.37 Later in community. It also raised questions as tothe month, however, an appeals court how the police identified the Internet useroverturned the blogger’s conviction on the and whether his IP address was tracked.43grounds of procedural irregularities, citing Mourtada was released 43 days later asthat the initial hearing took place only the result of a royal pardon issued on thetwelve days after charges were filed, when occasion of the Prophet Mohammed’sthe law calls for a minimum of fifteen birthday.44days.38 Information related to the ONI testing resultsindependence movement in the Western Restrictions on freedom of expressionSahara continues to be a sensitive issue. have extended to the Internet in recentWhen the video sharing Web site YouTube years. The government has blockedbecame inaccessible in May 2007 via the access to Web sites run by Islamiststate-controlled Maroc Telecom, some opposition groups and a few Web-basedInternet users believed the site was anonymizers, but it has lifted the ban on ablocked because video clips that were few previously blocked Web sites thatcritical of Morocco’s actions in Western advocate for the independence of WesternSahara were posted to the site. Maroc Sahara.Telecom, however, said a technical glitch ONI carried out testing of Moroccanwas responsible for the site’s Internet service on the principal Internetinaccessibility.39 provider, Maroc Telecom, and the ISP Political decisions are also believed to Morocco Trade and Development Serviceshave been behind clampdowns on media (MTDS). Test results in 2008-2009 foundcoverage. For example, in May 2008, the that sites that promote the independenceANRT advised the Rabat bureau of Al- of Western Sahara that were previouslyJazeera Satellite Channel that the blocked have been unblocked. Thesefrequency it used for broadcasting a daily include the Web site Sahara Occidentalnews program that had been covering ( andevents in the Maghreb for over eighteen the Web sites for the Union of Sahrawimonths was being withdrawn because of Journalists and Writers (“technical and legal problems.” 40 The and the Association of Families of Sahrawisudden and vague nature of the decision, Prisoners and Disappearedhowever, suggested that the decision had ( motivations.41 Previous ONI tests found the same trend; more pro-independence WesternSurveillance Sahara Web sites are becomingA February 2008 arrest of an Internet user accessible. Similarly, the Web site of anled many to believe that Moroccan Islamist opposition movement, Justice andauthorities do practice Internet Spirituality, ( wassurveillance. The Moroccan user, Fouad found accessible.Mourtada, was arrested by plain-clothes Blogging platform LiveJournalpolice and sentenced to three years in (, however, continuesprison for creating a false profile of the to be blocked. Also blocked are the Web-King’s brother on the social networking based anonymizers 4
  5. 5. 2009and the circumvention tool 

 Of all of the Web sites tested 1 UNHCR, “Freedom in the World - Moroccocontaining GLBT-related content, only one (2007),”was found to be blocked,FR(, apparently EEHOU,,MAR,473c55e339,0.html. 2 Reporters Without Borders, “Morocco -because the site has a special section for Annual Report 2007,”the Maghreb region at 43.php3?id_mot=147.ONI confirmed through technical tests that 3 Ibid.access to the Web site of Sheikh 4 Reporters Without Borders, “AstronomicMohamed Ben Abderrahman Al-Maghraoui damages award against leading Arabic-( was blocked on language daily upheld on appeal,” OctoberSeptember 30, 2008, just a few days after 30, 2008,the Moroccan authorities announced to shut down his Qur’anic schools 29152. 5 “Regions and territories: Western Sahara,”and close down a Web site on which theSheikh decreed that the marriage of nine- BBC News, May 12, 2009, girls is allowed by Islam, a decree profiles/3466917.stm.that was considered in Morocco to 6 United Nations Mission for the Referendumlegitimize pedophilia.45 in Western Sahara, “Western Sahara: MINURSO – Background,” 2005,Conclusion’s Internet filtration regime is inurso/background.html. 7 Western Sahara Online, “History,”relatively light and focuses on a few blogsites, a few highly visible anonymizers, 8 United Nations Mission for the Referendumand for a brief period, the video sharingWeb site YouTube. Sites advocating for in Western Sahara, “Western Sahara: MINURSO – Background,” 2005,the independence of the Western Sahara no longer inaccessible. The issues inurso/background.html.Morocco faces in Western Sahara’s push 9 Human Rights Watch, “Morocco/Westernfor independence, the specter of Sahara: World Report 2007, January 2007,”terrorism, and the protection of the royal and Islam from defamation have 1/11/morocc14714.htm.led Morocco to crack down on free speech 10 Ibid.and the press, but have not led it to 11 Reporters Without Borders, “Morocco:significantly censor the Internet. As Annual Report 2007,” February 2007,Internet users can access blocked on other accessible sites, it is 20772. 12 “Terror blasts rock Casablanca,” BBC News,clear that Morocco’s filtration regime is May 17, 2003,not comprehensive. Relative to the region, Internet access is relatively, but the fact that the authorities have 13 Privacy International and the GreenNetstarted to prosecute online writers Educational Trust, “Silenced: Anindicates limited tolerance to users’ online International Report on Censorship andactivities. Control of the Internet,” September 2003, 5
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 24 “Morocco creates new fund to promote ship. technological innovation,” Magharebia,14 United Nations Economic Committee for October 26, 2008, Africa, “Morocco: Internet Connectivity,” html1/en_GB/features/awi/features/2008/ files/Morocco/morocinter.htm. 10/26/feature-01.15 “Less than 23% Internet users in Morocco, 25 “Blogs becoming increasingly popular in minister,” Maghreb Arabe Presse, April 15, Morocco,” Magharebia, September 11, 2008 2006, al/less_than_23__inter/view. html1/en_GB/features/awi/features/2006/16 Ibid. 09/11/feature-01.17 International Telecommunications Union, 26 “Morocco, where bloggers can write about “ITU Internet Indicators 2008,” anything...almost,” AFP, January 6, 2008, D/icteye/Reporting/ShowReportFrame.aspx 2c91SkV1ytdQ6fYZq43eAcX7Q. ?ReportName=/WTI/InformationTechnology 27 Reporters Without Borders, “Morocco,” Public&RP_intYear=2008&RP_intLanguageI February 7, 2008, D=1. “Low income, dull content hinder Maghreb 28 “Morocco, where bloggers can write about internet growth,” Magharebia, October 25, anything...almost,” AFP, January 6, 2008, 2007, 2c91SkV1ytdQ6fYZq43eAcX7Q. html1/en_GB/features/awi/newsbriefs/gen 29 Committee to Protect Journalists, “Attacks eral/2007/10/25/newsbrief-04. on the Press in 2006: Morocco,”19 “Internet subscriptions rise by 220% in Morocco,” Magharabia, August 2007, mor06.html. 30 Human Rights Watch, “Background: The html1/en_GB/features/awi/features/2007/ State of Human Rights in Morocco,” 08/10/feature-01;, Internet November 2005, Mobile 3G Prices, /4.htm ; Mohammad Ibahrine, “Morocco: ffres%20Menara/?id=3g_tarif. Internet making censorship obsolete,” Arab20 Point Topic, “Operator Source: Maroc Reform Bulletin 3 (7): September 2005, Telecom,” http://point- rahine1.pdf. 2/menara.htm. 31 Richard Hamilton, “Laughter, freedom, and21 Vivendi, “Maroc Telecom: About,” religion in Morocco,” BBC News, January 13, 2007, Telecom,953. Point Topic, “Operator Source: Maroc om_our_own_correspondent/6256131.stm. Telecom,” http://point- 32 Reporters Without Borders, “Managing editor resigns to spare his newspaper 2/menara.htm. impossible damages payment,” January 18,23 “Morocco to offer third mobile phone 2007, license,” Reuters, October 30, 2008, 20473. diaTelecomNews/idUSLU7169512008103 33 Reporters Without Borders, “Morocco,” 0. February 7, 2008, 6
  7. 7. 2009

34 Ibid.35 Ibid.36 Ibid.37 Reporters Without Borders, “Appeal court overturns blogger’s conviction,” September 18, 2008, 28603.38 Ibid.39 “YouTube site ‘blocked’ in Morocco,” BBC News, May 29, 2007, 3.stm.40 Reporters Without Borders, “Al-Jazeera bureau forced to stop broadcasting Maghreb news programme from Rabat,” May 7, 2008, 26924.41 Ibid.42 Reporters Without Borders, “Royal pardon for Internet user, condemned to three years of jail for creating spoof Facebook profile for prince,” March 19, 2008, 25900.43 Ibid.44 Ibid.45 “Schools advocating child marriage shut down,” The Sydney Morning Herald, September 26, 2008, 26/1222217468223.html. 7