Approved in the Council of Government on March 19, 2020, Bill 22-20 on the use of social networks, in particular regarding the criminalization of calls to boycott commercial products, has raised intense controversy in Morocco.
Qualified as “liberticide” and renamed “the muzzle” by its detractors, this bill concerns the control of social networks and platforms for the distribution of multimedia content on the Internet (streaming).
The government is accused of wanting to take advantage of the Coronavirus crisis to pass a bill that violates the Constitution and seeks to kill free speech.
The first draft of this bill had already been drawn up in 2018 with the aim of limiting the losses suffered by several companies targeted by the “Boycott” campaign to which the oil distribution company “Afriquia” had been victim.
The government has justified its recent publication by a need to “put an end to a legislative vacuum” in matters of computer crime and to be able to crack down on fake news and acts which damage the reputation and honor of individuals, “practices which have been particularly spread during the coronavirus pandemic ”, as referred to by official sources.
More than sixty Moroccan civil society organizations launched an online petition against the bill, with the support of international organizations such as EuroMed Rights, Avocats Sans Frontières Belgium and Article 19-MENA.
These organizations denounced “the total lack of transparency” and “the absence of any involvement of the National Council for Human Rights”.
They rallied their concern over the risk of banning or even criminalizing certain forms of expression, such as the boycott of products and brands.
Critics and debate have swelled to the point that the Minister of Justice, author of the controversial Bill 22-20, declared the review of the bill on May 3.
“In view of the specific circumstances that our country is going through due to the health emergency, I have decided to ask the Head of Government and the members of the competent ministerial committee to postpone work on Bill 22.20 until the end of the current period and holding the necessary consultations with all the players concerned”, said the Minister.
(see attached the full text and the signatories of the civil society petition, in Arabic and French)