by Vera Le Quesne-Papic and Krassi Twigg for BBC News
Lede: “A rap song deemed critical of the king has sparked debate and anger in Morocco on the eve of the trial of one of its singers. Mohamed Mounir, widely known as Gnawi, was arrested at the start of the month, and his lawyer says he will next appear in court on 25 November. If convicted, he faces up to two years in jail and a fine.”
Nut Graph: “The Moroccan authorities have denied that the rapper’s arrest was prompted by the song, saying it was based on a previous YouTube video in which he insults the police. But the arrest came two days after the song was released, prompting public suspicion that the two are directly linked. Khadija Anani of the Moroccan Human Rights Association thinks the arrest is “an act of revenge that shows the decline in freedom of expression” in the country. Amnesty International describes Gnawi’s arrest as an “outrageous assault on free speech“, and calls for him to be set free.”
Why is this newsworthy? Free speech in Morocco has been a hot topic recently thanks to the Hajar Raissouni arrest, ruling, and royal pardon. Gnawi’s arrest has similarly garnered international attention, most notably from Amnesty International, for being an “assault on free speech” by the Moroccan government. Furthermore, his controversial song has reached millions of people. His next court appearance will be on the 25 of November, which makes this story timely.
by Aida Alami for the New York Times
Lede: “When Hajar Raissouni, an investigative journalist with one of Morocco’s only independent news outlets, went to her doctor’s office last August seeking treatment for a vaginal hemorrhage, she was not planning on becoming the center of a national discussion on press freedom, abortion rights and what critics say is the nation’s antiquated penal code. But on Aug. 31, minutes after she received the treatment, Ms. Raissouni and her fiancé, Rifaat al-Amin, were arrested — just two weeks before their wedding date. At first, she thought they were being robbed. But she quickly realized that the six men in plainclothes holding video cameras were police officers, and that she was being arrested because of her critical reporting on the Moroccan authorities.”
Nut Graph: “Their trial in September caused a sensation in Morocco, drawing crowds of supporters and protesters and unleashing a torrent of criticism from press freedom and abortion rights advocates, among others. The court’s decision to convict all five and sentence Ms. Raissouni and Mr. al-Amin, who is now her husband, to a year in prison provoked another uproar that was quieted only after the issuance of a royal pardon for all of the defendants on Oct. 16. ‘We’re relieved that Hajar and her co-defendants are free, but they should have never been arrested in the first place,’ said Ahmed Benchemsi, Middle East and North Africa communications director at Human Rights Watch, after the pardon. ‘A silver lining for this deplorable incident is that a debate was opened about archaic laws in Morocco, and now there’s a growing demand to repel criminalization of nonmarital sex from legal books.'”
Why is this newsworthy? Hajar Raissouni’s trial brought international attention to freedom of the press in Morocco, attention which was only mildly subdued after she received a royal pardon for being charged with premarital sex and abortion. Aida’s article brings a new element to the story: an interview with Raissouni herself. This story reveals how the events of the past few months have affected Raissouni—both as a journalist and activist and as a human being.
by Darlene Superville for AP News
Lede: “Visiting Morocco for the first time, Ivanka Trump received a warm welcome Thursday from housewives, widows and other women who are benefiting from new laws that allow them to own land.”
Nut Graph: “Ivanka Trump is a senior White House adviser who works on women’s issues and has sought through an initiative to encourage developing countries to help women build wealth and financial independence by owning land or other property. Morocco is one such nation. Working in partnership with the Millennium Challenge Corp., a U.S. aid agency, Morocco has updated its land titling laws and earned the three-day visit from the U.S. president’s daughter.”
Why is this newsworthy? A high-profile U.S. politician visited Morocco for the first time, which is newsworthy in it of itself. But this story also highlights recent legislation that has made it possible for women to inherit and own land in Morocco, which is also noteworthy.