AbuWael Al-Rifi Rules Morocco: The State of Chouf TV

Wednesday 4 November 202003:37 pm
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دولة "شوف تي في " بقيادة "أبو وائل الريفي" فوق الجميع

The story of the creation of journalistic Guards is not new in Morocco. The authority has always had its trumpets among journalists who blindly defend its policies, suggestions and mistakes, and they have always been major players in the battle of misleading people's minds and encapsulating out of the box thinking. They were always ruthless, immoral and with big mouths spitting out words without tact, exuding rudeness about anyone who has a dissenting opinion or a divergent position in a country that lacks tolerance of other opinions.

However, in recent years we have moved to a more advanced stage in the state's behavior in confronting critical voices. This coincided with the transfer of the management of these files from the circles around the king to the security and intelligence apparatus led by Abd al-Latif al-Hammouchi, after he rose in power in recent years to become the most powerful man in Morocco. The center of gravity shifted to the security apparatus, which became the main political player. The philosophy of this intelligence apparatus, which Abd al-Latif al-Hammouchi made a great effort to modernize and develop its modus operandi, is relatively different in position from the previous philosophy in managing the files of the political opposition, as these files were previously entrusted to the King's friend Fouad Ali Al-Himma, whose method was a combination of carrot and stick.

Today, nostalgia is taking some dissidents and independent journalists to that previous stage. At least things were clear then, the signals were understood, and the mood and fluctuations of the state were predictable. Now, with the control and predominance of the police, the matter has become more dangerous. The security mind only believes in the zero-sum equation, and it also sometimes overrides opponents just to settle scores, even with persons affiliated with the regime or centers of economic influence close to power.

Morocco’s security services created their own press, it informs you of the expected date of your arrest, and the "Chouf TV" platform remains one of the most prominent of these media platforms for defamation and fake news

Morocco’s security services created their own press, a semi-official press that informs you about the security forces' perception of the developments, and about their enemies and friends. More importantly, it informs you of the expected date of your arrest, and the "Chouf TV" platform remains one of the most prominent of these media platforms, for which great material and moral support has been earmarked for performing dirty services: defaming opponents and encapsulating the minds.

Falsification of minds and trade of tragedies

Driss Chahtane founded the website "Chouf TV" at the end of 2012, as a digital TV channel. He was the journalist who founded the newspaper "Al Mishaal" and spent a period in prison in 2009 due to publishing news about the king's health. He dreams of presenting a non-classic media product to the public, benefiting from the starting transformation of the press to the digital world.

Some of those who knew Driss Chahtane remember that after his release from prison, he closed himself in in his home and refused to meet with those expressing solidarity at the time. Chahtane was not a critic, nor a brilliant journalist, but that was an indication of a revolution that Chahtane wanted to bring to his career, and later he would be advised to establish "Chouf TV".

One day, Driss Chahtane entered the newsroom, and found a number of his journalists reading the daily newspapers, and he started shouting at them: "Am I paying your salaries to have you read the newspapers?" This story reveals part of the mindset of the founder of what will become Morocco's first ranking website.

The star of "Chouf TV" has steadily risen thanks to the composed videos that it broadcasts on a daily basis and the fictitious numbers of views in Morocco and abroad. The culture of "Booz" has succeeded in achieving impressive success for the site, especially since its collaborators cover almost all parts of the country, and since the scandalous and populist treatment of societal-sensitive problems has become the fixed editorial line that has tempted many media companies to follow in its footsteps.

The political role of "Chouf TV" as a tool in the hands of the security services started when the approach of using sexual cases to retaliate against journalists became more evident as in the case of Hajar Raissouni, accusing her of illegally aborting

A minor traffic accident in a small town, a family rape crime, a story of marital treason, a football riot, a difficult social situation, dismantling a terrorist cell ... the "Chouf TV" camera is omnipresent, and always in the right time. Its proximity to the security services makes it the first to arrive at the site of an event, and even broadcast it directly via the "Live" technology on the channel's page. Cynics say that Chouf TV may even start broadcasting an event before it's actually happening.

It has no red lines or taboos. Several weeks ago, for example, "Chouf TV" accompanied a wife who doubts her husband is betraying her to the place of his betrayal. The camera remained in front of the house for a few days until the husband left, since he was afraid of a scandal. They could also have a conversation with a young man who just tried to commit suicide, or photograph a minor girl who was raped.

"Chouf TV" can cover all events. Driss Chahtane brags about this, and he refers to the fact that about 100 journalists work with his website. He boasts of the people's confidence in the product offered by "Chouf TV", which is "the mirror of society", according to his qualification in a press statement.

A year ago, "Chouf TV" was not playing a role outside the plans to mislead the public and to dilute the media scene, trade in the misfortunes of the ordinary people, collect enormous material spoils from "the booz" and "click" and provide paid services to some major companies to extinguish the fires of a campaign against it by a competitor. The last of these services was aimed to defend Royal Air Maroc against its dismissed captains.

But today Chouf TV is a reality that is no longer a dream. It is a channel of millions that is watched by more than 28 million Moroccans, male and female. "Chouf TV” has succeeded because it speaks the language of the people who embrace it. The channel addressed their problems as they are. It understood Moroccans and Moroccans understood it. All those who criticize it and who led the battle to render it subservient now secretly sneak in. It has reached the douars of deep Morocco in the mountains, plains, and deserts. "Chouf TV is not the channel of the corrupt elite, it is the channel of the national democratic ranks", we read in one of the articles published on the site.

The deadly weapon of the security officials

The political role of "Chouf TV" as a tool in the hands of the security services started when the approach of using sexual cases to retaliate against journalists became more evident as a stand-alone pattern in Morocco, more precisely, with the case of the detention of the "Akhbar Al-Youm" daily journalist named Hajar Raissouni and accusing her of "illegal abortion". Chouf TV "was the only outlet to publish the news, before it was later reported by other pro-government media outlets. This was an indication of changes in the balance of power in the ruling square, as well as a change in the main players in the state's battle against distracted voices.

Thus, "Chouf TV" has become the undisputed number 1 in the state media machine, enjoying protection that was not previously provided to any of the previous state-affiliated media. It exceeded the rules of engagement and norms that even some of the state-affiliated media had avoided violating, and the private life of people is a fertile ground and nutritious substance for the moral and symbolic assassination of violators.

When "Chouf TV" begins publishing articles about a certain person, this is a sign that the worst awaits him, and that those in control of matters now have made the decision to punish him and take revenge on him, the examples of this being manifold and repeated. The equation is now clear: a Facebook post or statement may cost you exposure of your private life on Chouf TV in the most mean and dirty ways.

Abu Wael Al Rifi, the Avatar that was created

A few days after the release of a statement signed by Moroccan journalists criticizing the illegal arrest of the journalist Suleiman Raissouni, "Chouf TV" published inflammatory articles against the signatories of the statement, calling on the state to prosecute them on charges of impersonation, led by journalist Omar Radi, who was one of the first to think about issuing the statement and who mobilized support for it. The author "Abu Wael Al-Rifi" (which is the nom de guerre under which Driss Chahtane claims to write) published a list of Omar Al-Radi's bank statements and his monthly income, claiming he was dealing with foreign intelligence agencies with the aim of harming state security. These are the articles published on June 14 and 21, on which the Public Prosecution based the decision to open a judicial investigation with the journalist Omar Radi.

These articles, which continued to appear at the pace of a weekly article until Radi's arrest, included personal data and ideas that he exchanged with a number of his acquaintances via text messages or calls, for example private conversations with an American researcher, with a member of the Suleiman Raissouni family, and with some activists in the associations defending LGBT rights.

Even before his imprisonment, Abu Wael Al-Rifi set the date of Radi's arrest when he indicated that Radi would enjoy his Eid al-Adha meal in detention. Five days later, Omar Radi was arrested. In the same article, the author pointed out that the historian Maati Munjib, the author of critical opinions, was the next on the list of follow-ups, and then Maati Munjib became the main topic of Abu Wael's weekly articles until the Public Prosecution announced the opening of a judicial examination with him. Abu Wael wrote later, in clear language: “The truth is owned by Abu Wael, who owns its evidence, and Maati, Hicham can only try to debunk it. The time of the fifth column is over, and Maati has now become part of the past.”

The method did not differ much for the journalist Sulaiman Raissouni, as Abu Wael expected the date of his arrest before it took place, and before the judiciary directed to him any accusation or summons to appear before them. The Chouf website published pictures of his arrest in front of his house by a security team in civilian clothes.

Those in solidarity with the detainees or critics of the growing defamation press are not safe from the arrows of "Abu Wael Al-Rifi". For example the human rights activist Fouad Abdel Moumni, was the target of an intrusion into his personal life, when he dared to declare his solidarity with Maati Munjib. Once again, Abu Wael Al-Rifi fulfilled his promise, publishing intimate details from the life of a human rights defender, which could only be available to the intelligence services.

The same thing happened when hundreds of journalists signed a manifesto rising up against the defamation press. The statement did not include a clear reference to "Chouf TV", but it was understood that it was the first target in this unprecedented uprising for professional journalists, especially since the statement came a few days after the incident when the journalists Omar Al-Radi and Imad Stitou were followed by a cameraman working for the same website. He provoked them after filming them when they left a restaurant in Casablanca, just before they were taken to the police station after the security men arrived barely a minute after the start of a quarrel between the journalists and the cameraman. This operation was described by many as an "ambush" that confirms the close relationship between "Chouf TV" and the security apparatus.

The call for a boycott of "Chouf TV" angered "Abu Wael" who threatened the signatories of the manifesto one by one, describing them as "the fifth column" and traitors cooperating with the lobbies and the great powers and their human rights tools.

Many of those who worked previously with Driss Chahtane do not believe that he is the real author of these articles, which are published every Sunday at eleven o'clock, as these articles are similar to statements issued by a certain stream within the state, and reflect its view on the course of affairs in the country. That is why we find these articles, written in populist style, sometimes sending reprimanding messages to officials or influential people, and then concluding with a salute to the "wall guards" who defend the supreme interests of Morocco, in reference to the National Security and Internal Intelligence services.

The rules in Morocco have not changed in such a way that journalists are able to write courageously about Prince Hicham's wealth and assets abroad, for example, or to direct sharp criticism to members of the Development Model Committee appointed by the king, or the governor of the National Bank. Only "Abu Wael" can do this with great confidence and threatening language. The messages clearly reach those concerned without any reaction from their side, despite their strength and network of relationships.

Abu Wael’s character was created, similar to the creation of an “Avatar”, and in recent weeks the order was given to other pro-government websites to re-publish and promote sections of his articles and analysis in Arabic and French, and to present him as the writer most close to the source of information in Morocco. He is "Abu Wael" who replaces the Attorney General, and knows details about people's bedrooms and bank balances which they themselves do not know. Opponents fear him, loyalists understand the messages of his threats.

While the rest of the pro-government media went into hiding to play marginal roles, "Chouf TV" took the lead, benefiting from the great protection and prestige it derives from being close to the security services and providing them with impunity, sometimes showing the sword of challenge.

A year ago, "Chouf TV" published an incorrect account that included fabricated testimonies of an incident of a police officer shooting at civilians. The report presented the incident as if it were legitimate self-defense during the arrest of violent violators of the law, before it became clear later that this story was false and the policeman was arrested. However, "Chouf TV" was not subject to any form of punishment.

Even when the Ministry of the Interior decided several months ago to impose a night curfew due to Corona, Driss Chahtane rose on his Facebook page against the initial decision that did not exclude the press from the ban, announcing his challenge to this decision. Ater a few days the decision was changed, but the founder of "Chouf TV" would not have been so courageous in challenging the 'mother of ministries' if he had not had a strong support."

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