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Saturday, November 08, 2008

bloggers in Morocco

Morocco jails king insult blogger

Mohammed Erraji (taken from the 'Free Moroccan Blogger Mohammed Erraji' Facebook group)
Mohammed Erraji's family claim he did not receive a fair trial

A Moroccan blogger has been jailed for two years for showing disrespect to the monarchy, say the man's family.

Mohammed Erraji, 29, was convicted after writing an article claiming King Mohammed VI's charitable habits were encouraging a culture of dependency.

There has been no official comment on the case, but rights groups claim Erraji did not have a fair trial.

A BBC reporter says criticising the king is an offence in Morocco and the royal family remains a taboo subject.

Morocco has previously caused international outrage with its treatment of internet users.

Earlier this year, Fouad Mortada was sentenced to three years in prison for creating a false profile on the internet site Facebook using the identity of the king's brother.

He received a royal pardon following protests from internet users around the world.


Erraji claimed in an internet article that the king's charity towards Moroccans was stifling development by encouraging people to be lazy.

 It happened so quickly that all his rights were flouted 
AMDH's Khadija Riyadi

"This has made the Moroccans a people without dignity, who live by donations and gifts," he wrote.

The BBC's James Copnall in the capital, Rabat, says he was particularly critical of the practice known as grima - giving lucrative licences to run taxis and other transport in exchange for begging letters.

Erraji said this did not happen in developed countries, where hard work rather than begging is rewarded.

He was arrested by the authorities last Friday and accused of "lacking the respect due to the king".

In court on Monday, he was given a two-year prison sentence and fined 5,000 Dirham ($630:£356).

One relative, who claimed to have been present at the trial, said Erraji had not had a lawyer and that the judgement took only ten minutes.

"The judge passed sentence very quickly but we couldn't hear what was being said. He had no opportunity to explain himself," said the relative, who asked not to be named.

He told Reuters news agency that Erraji was in poor health and was just a "free thinker who simply wants the best for his country".

The blogger's brother told the BBC the sentence was disastrous for his family, as Erraji is the only one with a regular income


Human rights groups have criticised the verdict and demanded that Erraji be released.

King Mohammed VI of Morocco (file image)
It is an offence to disrespect the king under Moroccan press laws

Reporters Without Borders said the trial was "worthy of the most totalitarian states" and the Moroccan Association of Human Rights (AMDH) said the basic elements of a fair trial were not respected.

"It happened so quickly that all his rights were flouted," said Khadija Riyadi.

A Facebook group and an internet site have been set up in support of Erraji.

Our correspondent says Erraji's best hope of freedom could lie in a pardon from the very man whose policies he criticised. 

Web helps Obama with transition

Web helps Obama with transition

Barack Obama, Getty
Change was the key theme of Senator Obama's campaign

Barack Obama is turning to the web as he prepares to become US president.

Via a website called Change.gov, the Obama campaign plans to provide a guide to the transition process.

The site also solicits suggestions from US citizens about their vision for America, and lets them apply for a post with the new administration.

On its transition website, the US governmental watchdog has listed the 13 most urgent issues that will soon confront President-elect Obama.

Job ads

The US Government Accountability Office (GAO) listed oversight of US financial institutions and markets, and the ongoing conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan, as the most pressing issues.

The creation of the Change.gov website is seen by many as making good on Mr Obama's stated aim to make the process of governing more transparent.

A blog on the site will document the transition process, and elsewhere it plans to provide biographies and background on the people Mr Obama is recruiting.

The site will also accept applications for "non-career" posts in the incoming administration. The site does not give details about posts for which it is seeking recruits, but it said some of the roles would require "Senate approval" suggesting they could be positions of some influence.

The site also wants US citizens to tell their stories about what Obama's campaign meant to them, and pass on their "vision" for what they would like to see happen in America.

Security threat

It is not just Barack Obama who is using the net to get his message across. Hi-tech criminals are also capitalising on his victory in an attempt to trick web users into handing over valuable information.

F-Secure found a booby-trapped page claiming to host a copy of Obama's acceptance speech that prompted visitors to update their Flash video player before viewing the video clip. Anyone downloading and installing the supposed update would fall victim to a virus that stole bank login details.

"E-mail users who are eager to get the latest scoop on Obama's monumental presidential win should be careful that they are not being tricked by conniving cybercriminals," said Graham Cluley from Sophos.

The security firm also came across junk mail messages claiming that either Barack Obama or John McCain had died. Those following the links in these junk messages would find themselves on the website of a Canadian pharmacist.

In the run up to the US election, security firm Symantec said it had found junk mail messages that posed as a survey of voter attitudes that tried to gather and steal personal data.

Another spam message offered a free "Barackumentary" on DVD, that users could get by providing credit card and other personal details. 

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