Moroccan journalist sentenced to jail over tweet

Journalist Omar Radi was ordered to pay a fine of 500 dirhams ($52). (Photo credit: CFImedias / YouTube)
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Updated 17 March 2020

Moroccan journalist sentenced to jail over tweet

  • A court in the Casablanca district of Ain Sebaa also ordered Radi to pay a fine of 500 dirhams ($52)
  • The ruling was immediately criticized by Amnesty International

RABAT: Moroccan journalist and human rights activist Omar Radi said Tuesday he had been handed a four-month suspended sentence for criticizing a judge in a tweet.
A court in the Casablanca district of Ain Sebaa also ordered Radi to pay a fine of 500 dirhams ($52), said the journalist, who reported the verdict in a tweet as courts in Morocco are closed to the public under measures to prevent the spread of coronavirus.
“I had expected the trial to be scrapped. It is an attack on my freedom of expression,” Radi told AFP, adding that he will appeal the verdict.
The ruling was immediately criticized by Amnesty International, which urged Moroccan authorities to quash the sentence.
“Even though today’s verdict means Radi won’t serve time in prison, he should never have been put on trial in the first place or sentenced for expressing peaceful views on social media,” Amnesty’s regional director Heba Morayef said in a statement.
“This sentence reinforces the message that anyone in Morocco who stands up for human rights will be punished.”
In April last year, Radi criticized judge Lahcen Tolfi after he upheld sentences of up to 20 years in jail against leaders of a protest movement that rocked the country’s north in 2016 and 2017.
Radi was detained briefly in December and charged with “insulting magistrates” before being released following a social media outcry over his arrest.


US judge blocks Commerce Department order to remove WeChat from app stores

Updated 21 September 2020

US judge blocks Commerce Department order to remove WeChat from app stores

  • WeChat has had an average of 19 million daily active users in the United States, analytics firms Apptopia says

WASHINGTON: A US judge on Sunday blocked the Commerce Department from requiring Apple Inc. and Alphabet Inc.’s Google to remove Chinese-owned messaging app WeChat for downloads by late Sunday.

US Magistrate Judge Laurel Beeler in San Francisco said in an order that WeChat users who filed a lawsuit “have shown serious questions going to the merits of the First Amendment claim, the balance of hardships tips in the plaintiffs’ favor.”

On Friday, the Commerce Department had issued a order citing national security grounds to block the app from US app stores owned by Tencent Holding’s and the Justice Department had urged Beeler not to block the order.

Beeler’s preliminary injunction also blocked the Commerce order that would have barred other transactions with WeChat in the United States that could have degraded the site’s usability for current US users. The US Commerce Department did not immediately comment.

WeChat has had an average of 19 million daily active users in the United States, analytics firms Apptopia said in early August. It is popular among Chinese students, Americans living in China and some Americans who have personal or business relationships in China.

The Justice Department said blocking the order would “frustrate and displace the president’s determination of how best to address threats to national security.” But Beeler said “while the general evidence about the threat to national security related to China (regarding technology and mobile technology) is considerable, the specific evidence about WeChat is modest.”

She added “The regulation — which eliminates a channel of communication without any apparent substitutes — burdens substantially more speech than is necessary to further the government’s significant interest.”

WeChat is an all-in-one mobile app that combines services similar to Facebook, WhatsApp, Instagram and Venmo. The app is an essential part of daily life for many in China and boasts more than 1 billion users.

The WeChat Users Alliance that had sued praised the ruling “as an important and hard-fought victory” for “millions of WeChat users in the US.”

Michael Bien, a lawyer for the users, said “the United States has never shut down a major platform for communications, not even during war times. There are serious First Amendment problems with the WeChat ban, which targets the Chinese American community.”