Rapper jailed for controversial YouTube video

El Haqed's protest songs made him famous during the Arab Spring. Now one may send him to jail for years.

Mar 3, 2020, 6:31 am*


Fruzsina Eördögh 

Fruzsina Eördögh

One Moroccan rapper’s rhymes are so controversial, he’s facing up to three years in prison for a single music video.

Mouad Belghouat, who goes by “El-Haqed” or “The Indignant,” is famous for calling out the Morrocan government in his dauntless, politically charged rap songs. He gained notoriety during the Feb. 20 protests, now known as the Arab Spring, when his songs first made the rounds on YouTube.

Those songs led to two arrests: first in September 2011, then in March 2012.

Now Belghouat is still awaiting trial—for a YouTube video he didn’t even upload.

The work that currently has him facing up to three years in prison is a song and montage video critical of law enforcement, titled “Dogs of the State.” Belghouat’s lawyer asserts his client wasn’t responsible for the montage video. Rather, it was another Internet user, and presumably a fan, who uploaded the video, The Guardian reported.

The video has since been removed from YouTube.

“In the song, Mouad accuses certain policemen of corruption,” Belghouat’s lawyer told The Guardian. “This isn’t a scoop. Everyone says so and international organizations confirm it.”

According to Reuters, Belghouat faces charges for “singing a song defamatory to a public authority” and for uploading images to the Internet that are “detrimental to public servants”.

The offending images in question include a picture of a policeman with the head of a donkey and “servants bowing before Morocco’s King Mohammed.”

Human rights groups, unable to pressure the Moroccan Justice Minister or the Moroccan king to grant Belghouat a royal pardon, have declared his arrest an attack on free speech.

Since Belghouat’s arrest, his music has only become more popular and mobilized fans, who wear T-shirts with his face emblazoned on the front. Citizen journalists using social media platforms like Twitter and Facebook, have rushed to fill the gap of local media hesitant to cover Belghouat’s case, raising global awareness of his cause.

“This case is a high-profile case,” Karim Tazi, a businessman and political activist, told NPR.

“It’s a symbolic case. He’s only an artist—and they want to silence him.”

Photo via YouTube

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*First Published: Apr 30, 2012, 1:50 pm