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Tuesday, 12 December, 2000, 13:41 GMT
E-mails evade Morocco rally gag
Journalist protest
Journalists have organised several protests
By Nick Pelham in Morocco

Islamic activists used the internet to show pictures of police crushing rallies by human rights activists and Islamists in Morocco.

Watch state television or listen to the official radio and you might never know Morocco had just suffered a weekend of violence in the capital, Rabat.

Riot police had ripped film from the cameras of foreign and local press.

But on Tuesday Justice and Charity activists began posting secretly-filmed video footage and photographs of the riots to thousands of e-mail addresses across Morocco.

Head wounds

Their short films recorded riot police charging at demonstrators and pummelling those they caught with batons.

Women were filmed as police herded them into the side-streets.

Protesters stood before cameras bleeding with head wounds.

Only a few newspapers dared publish some surviving pictures.

Moroccan women's demonstration
Many Islamists oppose women's demands for more rights

Most tight-lipped of all was unreformed state television and radio.

Both offered viewers reports on Palestinian protests in Israel, rather than those closer to home.

But it is a sign of a new media-savvy Islamist opposition that is seeking to challenge the authorities' grasp on information.

In a country where over half the population are illiterate, the internet lacks the reach of television.

Electronic dissent

However, Morocco is now Africa's third largest internet user, and photos can be downloaded and printed in cybercafes in even the smallest country towns.

Islamists have long collected bootlegged cassettes of their favourite preachers, and circulated videos of their largest marches.

Now they have e-mails of beaten supporters to add to their expanding library of electronic dissent.

An uneasy calm has now returned to Rabat. Security forces have cordoned off the centre to prevent further protests at parliament's gates and the streets which normally buzz during Ramadan are silent.

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