Rabat – Abdellah El Bakkali, president of the National Union of the Moroccan Press (SNPM), cast doubt on the credibility of the 2019 ranking by Reporters without Borders (RSF). The report ranked Morocco 135th out of 180 countries for safety of journalists, describing its media climate as “very difficult.”“I don’t always trust RSF’s reports,” said El Bakkali, asserting that the stance of those who produce the report “lacks credibility,” especially in what it reports on Western Sahara. He said their position on Western Sahara is based on a “pack of lies” and “unfounded.” RSF’s 88-word write-up on Moroccan press freedom for 2019 made no explicit mention of Western Sahara. However, it noted, “Several foreign reporters were expelled.”El Bakkali said journalists in Morocco face difficulties, but “we are not waiting for RSF to teach us lessons in journalism.”The situation of journalists in Morocco, El Bakkali argues, is better compared to a number of Arab countries, complaining that “RSF wants to shed specific light on Morocco.”Read also: RSF Ranks Morocco 135th on World Press FreedomRSF ranked Morocco as the 9th best country for journalist safety out of 19 countries in the Middle East and North Africa. However, the co-founder of Freedom Now, a coalition of human rights defenders in Morocco, Maati Mounjib, argued that press freedom in Morocco now is the worst it has been since the 1990s.Mounjib traces back the beginnings of the deterioration of the media climate in Morocco to 2002. But Mounjib said it started getting somewhat better in 2011-2013, only to degenerate afterwards with the arrest of the co-founder of the Moroccan news outlet Lakome, Ali Anouzla, in September 2013 and other arrests that followed.In its 2019 annual report, RSF gave Morocco a score of 44.98 on a scale of 0 (best) to 100 (worst) compared to 43.13 in 2018. The report blamed the situation on the Moroccan “authorities deliberate obstruction of national and international media” for covering the Hirak protests that broke out in Rif region, northern Morocco.