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Backlash in Morocco as Algerian show features puppet of King Mohammed VI

Supporters of the 57-year-old monarch decry his satirical depiction as a 'red-line'
A puppet of the Moroccan king is quizzed about controversial topics on an Algerian show on 13 February 2021 (Screengrab/YouTube)

A satirical show broadcast on the Algerian Echorouk channel on Saturday has provoked angry reactions in Morocco, after it depicted King Mohammed VI as a puppet and interviewed him on a number of controversial topics. 

On the Weekend Story programme, the presenter asks the puppet about the current situation in Morocco, the conflict in Western Sahara and the normalisation of relations with Israel.

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At the start of the show, the puppet of the king was introduced and extended his hand to be kissed by the guest next to him, who refused to kiss it citing coronavirus.

The presenter then went on to quiz the puppet about normalisation with Israel, to which he responded that there were many big secrets within the palace that were not known about. 

When asked about Western Sahara, the puppet gave an irritated response.

“There is no such thing as Sahrawi people, they are called Maghrebi people.”

The presenter reiterated that the Sahrawi people had a strong presence and had garnered support from Europe, Africa and around those who acknowledged them. 

The puppet dismissed the claims and insisted that the Western Sahara region belonged to Morocco.

“Well, I have a Sufi saint who said that Western Sahara used to belong to my grandparents,” the puppet of the king said.

El Mustapha Al Ramid, the Moroccan minister of human rights, took to Facebook to denounce the show. 

“For Moroccans, to agree or disagree with the sentiments is their business, they have the right to in the end … but for this to reach in whatever capacity, our country’s institutions, or our national symbols, or above that, his majesty, this is unacceptable, and we can not remain silent on this,” he wrote. 

King is 'a red line'

The show also sparked anger among social media users, who deemed it offensive and insulting to the king and the country.

Translation: Dear Algerians - you will never see in Moroccan media the presenter of a programme wearing a mask of Bouteflika ruling over you while looking almost dead, while his brothers steal his wealth … we will never reach the decline of your media because we do not turn our internal losses into hatred against neighbouring countries, we face them.  

Translation: What the Algerian channel Al Shorouk broadcast is the epitome of ugliness and moral bankruptcy. This is the least that can be said about it. Hatred blinds. 

Many used the hashtag #الملك_خط_أحمر (The king is a red line) to express their opposition to the show and defend the king. In response, Algerians retaliated with a similar hashtag #الجزاير_خط_احمر (Algeria is a red line), saying that they would not be silenced and were free to speak on such matters. 

However, for many Algerians, the show ignited a wider debate about freedom of expression and the ability to openly discuss matters concerned with politics and human rights.  

Translation: Where is the problem with Echorouk mocking the king of Morocco? On the contrary, it should be supported and not blamed because otherwise Moroccans will think they are right - and this does not equate even a drop in the ocean of how Moroccans mock Tebboune and Algerian officials. 

Translation: This is within the framework of freedom of expression. Ridicule and criticism is a right for everyone, regardless of if they are in the country or abroad. This video is the right of the Algerian military. 

Morocco’s normalisation deal and the United State’s announcement that the contested Western Sahara region would be part of the North African kingdom was widely condemned by activists online last year. 

Last year, Morocco became the sixth Arab state to officially recognise Israel, following the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Sudan. Egypt and Jordan had previously recognised Israel in 1980 and 1994 respectively.

US recognition of Western Sahara as a Moroccan territory has been viewed as a blow to autonomy for those in the former Spanish colony, where Sahrawis have been fighting for independence and continuously calling for a referendum, promised by the UN in 1991, on the territory's future. 

This article is available in French on Middle East Eye French edition.