HRW slams Morocco over journalist’s 3-year jail term

The court had rejected Mahdaoui’s defense that as a journalist he often receives calls from strangers and that he felt the man’s claims were “idle chatter.” (Shutterstock)
Updated 18 July 2018
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HRW slams Morocco over journalist’s 3-year jail term

  • Hamid el Mahdaoui was sentenced in June for “not denouncing” attempts to harm state security
  • Well known for criticising the Moroccan government on social media, Mahdaoui is already serving a one-year sentence

TUNIS: Human Rights Watch (HRW) criticized a Morocco court on Wednesday for sentencing a prominent journalist to three years in prison on a “dubious charge” relating to a northern protest movement.
Hamid el Mahdaoui was sentenced in June for “not denouncing” attempts to harm state security after he received a call from a man who said he planned to create armed strife in Morocco.
The court had rejected Mahdaoui’s defense that as a journalist he often receives calls from strangers and that he felt the man’s claims were “idle chatter,” HRW said.
Well known for criticizing the Moroccan government on social media, Mahdaoui is already serving a one-year sentence for inciting protests.
He received the call during the thousands-strong Al-Hirak al-Shaabi (Popular Movement) demonstrations that rocked the Rif region in 2016 and 2017.
HRW’s Middle East director Sarah Leah Whitson said the charges against him “reek of an arbitrary use of the law on an outspoken journalist by authorities who have been radically reducing the space for critical reporting and commentary.”


Google employees demand more oversight of China search engine plan

A Google sign is seen during the China Digital Entertainment Expo and Conference (ChinaJoy) in Shanghai, China August 3, 2018. (REUTERS)
Updated 19 August 2018
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Google employees demand more oversight of China search engine plan

  • Hundreds of employees have called on the company to provide more “transparency, oversight and accountability
  • Employees have asked Google to create an ethics review group with rank-and-file workers, appoint ombudspeople to provide independent review and internally publish assessments of projects

SAN FRANCISCO: Google is not close to launching a search engine app in China, its chief executive said at a companywide meeting on Thursday, according to a transcript seen by Reuters, as employees of the Alphabet Inc. unit called for more transparency and oversight of the project.
Chief Executive Sundar Pichai told staff that though development is in an early stage, providing more services in the world’s most populous country fits with Google’s global mission.
Hoping to gain approval from the Chinese government to provide a mobile search service, the company plans to block some websites and search terms, Reuters reported this month, citing unnamed sources.
Whether the company could or would launch search in China “is all very unclear,” Pichai said, according to the transcript. “The team has been in an exploration stage for quite a while now, and I think they are exploring many options.”
Disclosure of the secretive effort has disturbed some Google employees and human rights advocacy organizations. They are concerned that by agreeing to censorship demands, Google would validate China’s prohibitions on free expression and violate the “don’t be evil” clause in the company’s code of conduct.
Hundreds of employees have called on the company to provide more “transparency, oversight and accountability,” according to an internal petition seen by Reuters on Thursday.
After a separate petition this year, Google announced it would not renew a project to help the US military develop artificial intelligence technology for drones.
The China petition says employees are concerned the project, code named Dragonfly, “makes clear” that ethics principles Google issued during the drone debate “are not enough.”
“We urgently need more transparency, a seat at the table and a commitment to clear and open processes: Google employees need to know what we’re building,” states the document seen by Reuters.
The New York Times first reported the petition on Thursday. Google declined to comment.
Company executives have not commented publicly on Dragonfly, and their remarks at the company-wide meeting marked their first about the project since details about it were leaked.
Employees have asked Google to create an ethics review group with rank-and-file workers, appoint ombudspeople to provide independent review and internally publish assessments of projects that raise substantial ethical questions.
Pichai told employees: “We’ll definitely be transparent as we get closer to actually having a plan of record here” on Dragonfly, according to the transcript. He noted the company guards information on some projects where sharing too early can “cause issues.”
Three former employees involved with Google’s past efforts in China told Reuters current leadership may see offering limited search results in China as better than providing no information at all.
The same rationale led Google to enter China in 2006. It left in 2010 over an escalating dispute with regulators that was capped by what security researchers identified as state-sponsored cyberattacks against Google and other large US firms.
The former employees said they doubt the Chinese government will welcome back Google. A Chinese official, who declined to be named, told Reuters this month that it is “very unlikely” Dragonfly would be available this year.