Citizens do not have the right to change the constitutional provisions establishing the country’s monarchical form of government. Morocco is a monarchy with a constitution, a bicameral Parliament, and an independent judiciary; however, ultimate authority rests with the king. Demonstrations occur frequently in Morocco and usually center on local domestic issues. During periods of heightened regional tension, large demonstrations may take place in the major cities. All demonstrations require a government permit, but on occasion spontaneous unauthorized demonstrations occur, which have greater potential for violence. In addition, different unions or groups may organize strikes to protest an emerging issue or government policy.
Morocco's human rights record is mixed. On the positive side of the ledger, Freedom of the press is considerable, although many journalists practice self-censorship and discussion of the monarchy is not permitted. Freedom of religion is generally observed, with some limitations. Although Islam is the official state religion, Moroccans are permitted to practice other faiths. However, restrictions apply to Christian proselytizing and political activities under the rubric of Islam. On the negative side, in view of the dominant role of the king in politics, Moroccans lack the ability to change their government.
Following the Islamist terrorist attack in Casablanca in May 2003, human rights groups alleged that Morocco mistreated and even tortured detainees. Other human rights issues include violence and discrimination against women, child labor, and human trafficking. In 2005 the Moroccan parliament took steps to improve the status of women and children.
Political parties face some government-imposed restrictions. The Ministry of Interior [MOI] must approve political parties. Legislation places conditions on the establishment and functioning of political parties. The law requires parties to hold frequent national congresses and to include women and youth in the leadership structures. Public funding is based on a party's total representation in parliament and the total number of votes received nationally. Only registered members of a particular party may make private contributions. A party can be disbanded if it does not conform to the provisions stated in the law. To create a new party, organizers must submit to the MOI a declaration signed by at least 300 cofounding members from one-half of the 16 regions of the country.
The law does not distinguish political and security cases from common criminal cases. The government did not consider any of its prisoners to be political prisoners. The government stated that it detained individuals under criminal law only. Several NGOs, including the Moroccan Association for Human Rights (AMDH), Sahrawi organizations, and Berber activist groups, however, charged the government with detaining persons for political activities or beliefs under cover of criminal charges, such as AMDH members arrested for shouting antimonarchy slogans.
The government owns many key media outlets, including Moroccan radio and television. Moroccans have access to approximately 2,000 domestic and foreign publications. The Moroccan press agency, Maghreb Arab Press, and one Arabic daily newspaper, Al-Anbaa, are official organs of the government. One additional Arabic daily newspaper, Assahra Al Maghribia, and one French-language daily newspaper, Le Matin, are semi-official organs of the government. Although journalists continue to practice self-censorship, opposition dailies have begun to explore social and political issues that would have been considered out of bounds until recently.
However, the media continue to exercise caution when discussing government corruption, human rights, and Morocco's policy toward Western Sahara. Radio Méditerranée Internationale (Medi-1), a joint French/Moroccan broadcaster, also practices self-censorship. According to the most recent available information, Morocco has 27 AM radio stations, 25 FM radio stations, 6 shortwave stations, and 35 television stations.
A 2002 law restricting media freedom states that expression deemed critical of "Islam, the institution of the monarchy, or territorial integrity" is not permitted and may be punishable by imprisonment. Satellite, internet programming, and print media are otherwise fairly unrestricted.
Impunity was pervasive in the absence of effective mechanisms to investigate and punish abuse and corruption. Authorities investigated very few incidents of alleged abuse and corruption, and there was no systematic prosecution of security personnel who committed human rights abuses. Cases often languished in the investigatory or trial phases. Security forces often arrested groups of individuals, took them to a police station, questioned them for several hours, and released them without charge.
The law does not define or recognize the concept of a political prisoner. The government did not consider any of its prisoners to be political prisoners and stated that all individuals in prison had been convicted or had been charged under criminal law. According to NGOs, approximately 40 political prisoners, many of them members of the February 20 Movement, remained in prison at the end of 2014.
Criminal law, however, covers nonviolent advocacy and dissent, such as insulting police in songs or “defaming Morocco’s sacred values” by denouncing the king and regime during a public demonstration. The law criminalizes and the government actively prosecutes persons who criticize Islam, the institution of the monarchy, state institutions, officials such as those in the military, and the government’s official position regarding territorial integrity and claim to Western Sahara. There were multiple incidents of outspoken February 20 Movement supporters and activists being arrested under dubious criminal charges rather than under libel or other free speech-related charges.
While the constitution states an individual’s home is inviolable and that a search may take place only with a search warrant, authorities at times entered homes without judicial authorization, monitored without legal process personal movement and private communications--including e-mail, text messaging, or other digital communications intended to remain private--and employed informers.
The antiterrorism law and press code include provisions that permit the government to jail and impose financial penalties on journalists and publishers who violate restrictions related to defamation, libel, and insults. Prison sentences may be imposed on those convicted of libel. The press, consequently, reported gingerly on controversial and culturally sensitive topics involving the military and national security. Self-censorship and government restrictions on sensitive topics remained serious hurdles to the development of a free, independent, and investigative press.
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