The Union of Moroccan Workers (UMT) is condemning the recent firing of journalist and television host Youssef Belhaissi and attacks on other members of his union, including Aziz Fathi, a union office coordinator, who was demoted from editor-in-chief.
The company had barred Belhaissi, deputy secretary-general of the union representing media workers at Medi1 TV, from appearing on screen since late June, a move condemned by union and media advocates. The union is an affiliate of the National Federation of Press, Media and Communication/UMT.
Fathi, who has reported on the dangers of the novel coronavirus and engaged in public advocacy and awareness of the pandemic, also saw his computer destroyed, according to UMT. His colleague, Hicham Faouzi, UMT first general secretary, also was demoted without cause.
The actions follow weeks-long demands by employees at Medi1 TV, which broadcasts news, business and financial markets and sports, for stronger sanitary measures to protect against spread of the virus, and for COVID-19 testing. Employees say the company has refused to allow workers eligible for teleworking to do so.
UMT says the company first responded to the workers’ demands for safe conditions by unilaterally closing Medi1 TV’s Rabat office and scheduling the transfer of all staff to Tangier in August amid the pandemic.
“Trade union action is neither a crime nor a misdemeanor,” UMT says in a statement. “It is guaranteed in the kingdom’s constitution, and in all international and regional covenants and agreements ratified by Morocco, a commitment that Morocco has made to itself in international and regional forums.”
Employers Use COVID Crisis to Target Workers
Employers worldwide are penalizing and even firing workers who demand their rights to safety measures to protect against COVID-19, and are using the pandemic to lay off workers, often targeting those seeking for form unions or exercise their rights on the job.
The crisis also has accelerated moves in recent years to limit press freedom, part of a global attack on democracy that often involves targeting individual journalists, media workers and sometimes entire press enterprises.
Morocco’s freedom of press score has fallen every year since 2015, according to World Press Index compiled by Reporters Without Borders (RSF), which ranks Morocco 135th out of 180 countries in its 2019 annual report on freedom of press.
In December, police arrested journalist Omar Radi for a nine-month-old tweet criticizing a judge, the 11th journalist imprisoned in Morocco since 2011, more than twice as many as the previous decade, according to the Committee to Protect Journalists.