NEW YORK—The dissolution of Morocco cultural group Racines by the Ministry of Interior is an unacceptable violation of cultural rights and democratic principles, PEN America said in a statement today.  

Last October, the Governor of Casablanca-Anfa, a senior official of the Ministry of the Interior, filed a complaint against Racines (French for “Roots”) for the organization’s hosting the YouTube show 1 Dîner 2 Cons (One Dinner, Two Fools), a satirical political commentary, in their office. In the increasingly restrictive Moroccan media landscape, the show is one of the last bastions of free speech, addressing the often-taboo topics of politics, religion, and sex.  During the August 5 episode, viewed more than half a million times, some guests criticized King Mohammed VI’s speeches and policies regarding police repression of protests. On December 26, 2018, the civil court of the first instance of Casablanca announced the dissolution of Racines on the grounds that the group had “expressed political views were far removed from the purposes for which the association was created.” Racines has appealed the court’s decision. The sentence is currently non-binding, and Racines is continuing its work advocating for freedom of expression and cultural diversity in Morocco and Africa despite government pressure to cease its activities.

Established in 2010, Racines is a non-profit cultural institution promoting Moroccan culture and economic development. It was born from a desire to put the arts at the forefront of the national conversation.

“Racines’ sudden dissolution is an unwarranted and unjust attack on a vitally important cultural organization,” said Julie Trebault, PEN America’s Artists at Risk Connection (ARC) Director. “It is inherent in the work of cultural organizations to facilitate dialogue on issues of importance to society. The Moroccan authorities continued enforcement of the country’s notorious “red lines,” constricting freedom of expression with regard to certain sensitive topics, including the monarchy, represents an infringement on the rights of all Moroccans to have their voices heard. We call on the Moroccan authorities to permit Racines to continue to operate freely and without constraint.”

Restrictions on freedom of expression in Morocco continue to be of grave concern. In 2018,  Freedom House has reported increasing instances of harassment and intimidation of journalists, activists, and creative artists.

PEN America leads the Artists at Risk Connection (ARC), a program dedicated to assisting imperiled artists and cultural practitioners and fortifying the field of organizations that support them. If you or someone you know is at risk, contact ARC here.

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PEN America stands at the intersection of literature and human rights to protect open expression in the United States and worldwide. We champion the freedom to write, recognizing the power of the word to transform the world. Our mission is to unite writers and their allies to celebrate creative expression and defend the liberties that make it possible. pen.org

CONTACT: Anoosh Gasparian, External Relations Manager: agasparian@pen.org