At these days Moroccan journalist and site director Ali Anouzla is under arrest in Morocco for having published a video attributed to AQIM, the branch of terrorist group Alqaida in the Maghreb. Moroccan justice seems to be using the anti-terrorist laws in his case, whether this is right or not from a juridical point of view is not subject to this paper.
People and NGOs defending him seem to be using commonly the principle of freedom of speech to demand his release. Their main and everywhere repeated argument is that Anouzla was merely informing the Moroccan public opinion, that Moroccans have the right to know and that different other media and journalists have done the same.
From a first look this sounds absolutely right, freedom of speech is fundamental to any democracy or democratic transition. But, did Anouzla merely want to inform?
A closer look at his site allows an interesting view. In the article Anouzla published a screen shot that shows a freeze of the video at second 0:16 (image 1). The content of the image is obvious, it shows Mohammed VI, the King of Morocco, an apocalyptic background on which is written: “Morocco, the kingdom of corruption and despotism”. This message coincides perfectly with the slogans of radical opposition in Morocco of which Anouzla is a media actor
Anouzla obviously did not simply transfer the message that AQIM has published a video threatening Morocco and the Moroccan King; he went a step further and thought to use the video to support his attitude of denunciation.
This is something like when a German opponent would use the claims for justice by using imagery from the terrorist group Red Army Faction.
On the Facebook page of his site Anouzla goes one more step. He publishes the screen shot of the same video but this time without the video buttons. The screen shot becomes a simple image. Anouzla confirms he is using terrorist materials to denunciate Morocco’s Monarchy.
By way of comparison here is a screen shot of a site that simply informs:
The image does not retransmit any political claim against the system, but simply shows the video as it would appear at the beginning.
On another side of things, the matter why Moroccan authorities have been so harsh in detaining Anouzla immediately could be explained by the timing of the publication of the video.
While it is agreed that this was the first time the AQIM terrorist address a message of threat to Morocco, Morocco’s King was preparing his travel to Mali that will last several days. It is the first travel of a Moroccan King since the 60s for the reason that Mali has always recognised the “Sahrawi Republic”, a nominal body declared by Algeria and Polisario to claim the independence of the Sahara region currently under control of Morocco.
The travel of King Mohammed VI marked the end of the Algerian influence in Mali, almost a year now after France’s military intervention to fight out terrorist groups from the country. Algeria is accused to be behind different terrorist groups and was against any intervention of any Western power in the region, while Morocco played aside with France and facilitated the legitimating of the intervention at the UN level using her role as rotating member of the Security Council. France also used Morocco’s space for their military jets to cross to Africa.
Seen this timing and the mostly leftist laic nature of the message of the video, different voices have attributed the production of the same video to the Algerian secret services with the aim to push for instability in the country and disturb any process of resettlement of relationships between Morocco and Mali.
Probably this was a reason behind the severe criticism the King expressed towards Algeria when he mentioned “States that promote destruction while others try to build”.
Now seen Anouzla’s positions on the Sahara and the fact that his site becomes a platform for publication for any separatist opinion and propaganda in the region, it is well to be supposed that Anouzla has continuous contact with pro Polisario elements who are by nature in the orbit of the Algerian services. It is possible that the Moroccan authorities – who by the way confiscated his computer and publishing tools – are investigating this very question, namely, whether there is any coordination with pro Polisario elements on the publication of the video of AQIM.