Thursday, June 4, 2015

Fatima Al Ifriki,

“I’m free now, I’ve broken my chains.” So says Fatima Al Ifriki, a Rabat-born journalist who has had an unusual career. The daughter of a policeman and a housewife, she entered journalism almost by chance but within a few years became one of the national TV broadcaster’s leading presenters.

Despite her professional success, she became restless at the end of 2010 as turmoil swept the Arab world. In Morocco, the adoption of a new constitution by referendum in July 2011 failed to satisfy the hopes and dreams of a new generation that gave rise to the 20 February Movement. For Ifriki, it was a rebirth. “These courageous young people were demanding what I’d always dreamed of. They were demanding more freedom and democracy, and more respect for human rights, while we, this country’s elite, had never dared to go so far.”

When Ifriki began spearheading calls for freedom of expression and information, the national TV station shunted her aside and she began writing weekly columns for Arabic-language newspapers such as Akhbar El Yaoum, expressing a level of criticism that is rare in Morocco. After her family was threatened, she stopped writing for several months to protect her privacy. But she soon resumed contributing to Akhbar El Yaoum and its website El Yaoum 24 and was one of the first to condemn the arrest of Ali Anouzla, the editor of another news website, in September 2013, participating in his support committee until his release.

Although she is still threatened by possible reprisals, her continuing courage and determination can be seen in Freedom Now, a media freedom NGO that she and such prestigious figures as Khadija Riyadi, winner of the 2013 UN Human Rights Prize, launched in 2014. The government’s refusal to register this NGO suggests that the road to freedom could be long and tortuous.

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