PARIS (AP) — Two French journalists have been expelled from Morocco this week in a move denounced by media outlets and press freedom advocates.
Staff reporter Quentin Müller and freelancer photojournalist Thérèse Di Campo, who work for the weekly Marianne magazine, said on Wednesday that they were taken by force from their Casablanca hotel room by 10 plainclothes police officers and put on the first flight to Paris.
Both Müller and Stéphane Aubouard, an editor at Marianne, said the expulsions were politically motivated in response to critical reporting.
Morocco denied the charge and said their removal was about procedure, not politics. However, media activists framed it as the latest action taken by Moroccan authorities against journalists.
In a post on X, formerly known as Twitter, Müller linked their expulsions to broader concerns about retaliation against journalists in Morocco.
"We were removed and forcibly expelled from the country without any explanation. This speaks a lot to the repressive atmosphere in Morocco," he said, noting that he and Di Campo — neither based in Morocco — had traveled to the country to pursue critical reporting on the rule of King Mohammed VI, a topic considered taboo in the North African nation.
In a subsequent op-ed, Aubouard said the two went to Morocco following this month's devastating earthquake that killed nearly 3,000 people. He said the expulsions “confirm the difficulty that foreign and local journalists have working in the country.”
Morocco has garnered some international condemnation in recent years for what many see as its efforts to infringe on press freedoms. At least three Moroccan journalists who have reported critically on government actions are in prison, convicted of crimes unrelated to journalism.
The Committee to Protect Journalists and Reporters Without Borders both denounced the expulsions on X, with the latter describing them as a "brutal and inadmissible attack on press freedom.”
Moroccan government spokesperson Mustapha Baitas said on Thursday the expulsions were a matter of procedure, not politics. He said that neither journalist had sought accreditation, which is required by journalists under Moroccan law.
Baitas said Müller and Di Campo entered the country as tourists. "They neither requested accreditation nor declared their intent to engage in journalistic activities," he told reporters at a news conference in Rabat on Thursday.
"Our nation firmly upholds the values of freedom and transparency and is committed to enabling all journalists to perform their duties with absolute freedom,” he added.
The expulsions come amid broader criticism of French media in Morocco.
In a separate development Wednesday, Morocco’s National Press Board published a formal complaint to France’s Council for Journalistic Ethics and Mediation against two media outlets, the satiric weekly Charlie Hebdo and the daily Libération, saying their reporting had violated ethical norms and spread fake news while attacking Morocco and its institutions for their earthquake response.
Tensions have spiked lately between Morocco and France, with Rabat recalling the kingdom's ambassador to France at the start of the year, without sending a replacement.
After the earthquake, France was not among the four countries chosen by Morocco for search-and-rescue assistance — a move scrutinized in both French and international media. French President Emmanuel Macron in a video on social media later appealed for an end to controversies that “divide and complicate” things at “such a tragic moment.”
The kingdom’s Interior Ministry had cautioned that an overflow of poorly coordinated aid “would be counterproductive” and said it planned to accept assistance later.