Seven journalists in Morocco are on trial today for training civilians to use a foreign-funded smartphone app for citizen journalism.
The journalists stand accused of “undermining state security” and “failing to report foreign funding,” according to Tuesday’s Amnesty International report.
The foreign-funded citizen journalism app in question, StoryMaker, is part of a project funded by the Dutch NGO, Free Press Unlimited.
StoryMaker “is an open source app that enables journalists to publish professional-grade news content including graphics using their phones.”
“Helping Moroccans harness smartphone technology to report on what is going on in the country is not a crime, and it is outrageous that it is being treated as a state security offence,” said Amnesty International’s Middle East and North Africa Deputy Director, Said Boumedouha.
The arrests follow a series of legal crackdowns on journalists beginning last year when in March, the project manager for the Moroccan Association for Investigative Journalism was jailed 10 months on an alleged trumped-up adultery charge.
The project manager was investigating the Moroccan authorities’ alleged surveillance of activists and journalists at the time of his arrest.
Another journalist was jailed and fined for reporting on the death of a political activist while it was revealed that the Moroccan authorities spent over $3 million on surveillance software between 2009 and 2012.
Since 2006, the Moroccan Monarchy under King Mohammed VI has been routinely targeting journalists and activists who criticize the crown just as his father routinely “stifled public discourse and tortured opponents for decades” under his own rule.