Press freedom for Moroccan journalists and a direct flight to Algeria. These are the two requests that Morocco is demanding for the participation of the "Lions of the Atlas" in the African Nations Championship (CHAN) hosted by Algeria from 13 January to 4 February. Two requests that Algeria continues to refuse and which could lead to a boycott of the championship by the Moroccan national football team, crowned in fourth place at the World Cup in Qatar.
The Moroccan National Press Council has sent a letter to the president of the Confederation of African Football (CAF), Patrice Motsepe, asking the host country to guarantee the right to freedom of press, freedom of expression and human rights for Moroccan journalists at the African Nations Championship.
These conditions, which Morocco is asking for, have been guaranteed to journalists from other countries that have not been subject to repressive, political or diplomatic restrictions such as those suffered by Moroccan journalists. The letter itself recalled that Algeria had already prevented Moroccan journalists from covering the Mediterranean Games on 22 June 2022, the Arab Summit two days before its inauguration last November and allowed the attack on Moroccan players in the Arab Cup for players under 17 years of age.
At these Mediterranean Games held in the Algerian city of Oran, nine Moroccan journalists accompanying the Moroccan delegation were trapped at the airport when the Algerian police refused to allow them to fly back to Morocco. The allegations they made were that they had "no media accreditation for Moroccan journalists", when the Moroccan National Olympic Committee had met all the deadlines in coordination with the Organising Committee and the International Committee of the Mediterranean Games. Reporters Without Borders condemned this expulsion of Moroccan journalists as "an unacceptable obstacle to journalistic work".
The National Press Council concluded its appeal by recalling its commitment to African societies and to international public opinion, which also have the right to access information. Algeria is expected to respond to the CAF in order to guarantee, according to the letter, the international principles shared by all nations.
This request by the National Press Council is in addition to the one already made by the Royal Moroccan Football Federation. Its president, Faouzi Lekjaa, is demanding a direct Royal Air Maroc flight from Rabat to Constantine, where the Moroccan national team is due to play its matches in the African Nations Championship. A request that Algiers continues to refuse.
The CAF, as organiser of the event, is expected to intervene with the Algerian authorities to ensure both the entry of all foreign delegations onto Algerian soil and the freedom of the press for all journalists attending the event.
If such demands are not accepted, the "Atlas Lions", revelation team at the World Cup in Qatar, and winners of the last two editions of the CHAN in 2018 and 2020, could boycott this African Cup. "We are waiting for an official response from CAF on our request before deciding on our participation," said Lekjaa.
Algeria's continued rejection of Morocco's requests comes in the context of Algiers' severing of diplomatic relations between the two Maghreb nations in August 2021. As stated in a communiqué by the Algerian president, Abdelmadjid Tebboune, the Algerian authorities closed the airspace to Morocco. A measure that now affects the African Nations Championship.