Prominent Moroccan Journalist, Hajar Raissouni and her fiancé, Rifaat al-Amin are currently on trial for having pre-marital sex and an abortion, both considered criminal offenses in Morocco. The medical team accused of performing the abortion is also on trial; Dr. Mohammad Jamal Belkeziz could face up to 10 years in prison.
Despite accusations by authorities, Raissouni and her medical team insist that she never underwent an abortion. Instead, Dr. Belkeziz said he treated Raissouni for a fatal blood clot. Raissouni was also forced to undergo a vaginal examination without her consent to determine whether she had an abortion, and despite all evidence opposing such claims, she still remains under arrest.
Many activists believe that Raissouni’s arrest is more likely tied to her being an avid critic of the Moroccan government. She gained national recognition after covering mass demonstrations at the Northern Riff region where hundreds of activists were jailed.
According to Laila Slassi, a Moroccan Lawyer and one of the founding members of a feminist collective called Maskatach, the police are relatively tolerant towards abortion, despite its illegality. Slassi continued that, “the fact that she (Raissouni) is a journalist and from a family that has caused some trouble for the Moroccan regime is probably the real reason why they’re using some pretext against her”.
In 2016, the country’s penal code was modified to abolish prison sentences for journalistic offenses. As opposed to increasing journalistic freedom, the penal code has been manipulated to jail journalists for offenses completely unrelated to their work. Raissouni’s case highlights how the intersection of gender based discrimination and restrictions on free speech make women journalists in Morocco and around the world a particularly vulnerable group.
Sources: New York Times 9/15/19; The Guardian 9/16/19