Morocco at the crossroads of traditions, modernity and press freedom

Abdelilah explains how great potentials Morocco has to develop itself at all levels and argues that the question of press freedom is primarily a matter of will and self restraint.

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Moroccan English teacher and blogger. 3 comments

Sunday, November 22nd, 2009


Morocco remains a land of diversity and contradictions.  One of the aspects of its diversity is its landscape and culture, while its contradictions lie in the disparity between the haves and the have-nots. That is what represents a challenge to the current Moroccan generations faced with maintaining its identity, adopting positive changes and keeping the country stable even if this was at the price of certain freedoms.

Concerning Moroccan issues, we need concrete actions. Many opportunities have been lost because of individualism and even fear of pushing things as change is feared by many as it means for them disinheritance and the loss of key positions. There is an oligarchy in Morocco which has the reign of things. There can be nothing wrong with that if it can put its assets for the service of the country. But at the same time, everyone should have equal opportunity, starting from education to assuming responsibilities.

In my article, I will focus just on religious issues and the role the press should have in Morocco without hidden agenda.

Concerning contradictions, the Moroccans have to co-exist with those seeking modern ways and those seeing religious identity as the best conduct. But recently, these contradictions seemed to have taken some extremes. There are Islamist fundamentalists who have gone as far as to adopt terrorism. The Casablanca terrorist attacks on May 16, 2003 are a case in point. Last Ramadan, there was the association MALI, which tried to break the fast in public as a challenge to the law prohibiting taking food in public. Morocco need not to be in the grip of extreme views on both sides as it may end up in a kind of “sectarian” violence based on notions that have nothing to do with authentic Moroccan identity.

It may be argued that the arrests following the Casablanca terrorist attacks on May 16, 2003 were in some cases categorised with arbitrary verdicts and imprisonment, but if there is any good point about the campaign against extremists is that it limited the spread of extreme views infiltrating Morocco from Islamists with their own political agenda. At the time when it was common to hear of countless suicide attacks in Iraq adopted by Al Qaeda, there was the possibility that a few “desperate” Moroccans would see that suicide attacks were the best way to “put things right”. Currently, the state has restructured the religious field by appointing among other things the Murshidats. In this case, in line with the need to remain independent, it is better for Morocco to have its own religious figures and figure out its spiritual method than get a tsunami of other religious views like the Wahhabi, which in the context of Moroccan reality is alien to its inherited religious values from Moroccan religious thinkers.

Concerning press freedom, which has become an issue in Morocco, as from time to time, there are journalists who are tried because of their cartoons and articles, I think that the Moroccans have the right to know more about their country from their own press rather remain in the dark or get information from outside sources. The flaw with press freedom is when it becomes a source of manipulation and blackmail or a war between journalists to attack each other’s editorial line and to accuse them of being “subservient” to the Makhzen. Journalists like Rachid Nini of the newspaper Al Massae and Ahmed Reda Benchemsi  from TelQuel magazine have on many occasions degraded themselves by publishing disparaging attacks against each other in their columns and articles, especially in the last week of July 2009 coinciding with the 10th anniversary of the accession of King Mohammed VI to the throne. Nini accused Benchemsi of being a drug addict. Benchemsi accused him of becoming subservient to the “Establishment” because of articles written that praise the Monarchy.

If the press does not have a wide circulation in Morocco, it is because of the content on its pages. Either there is banal information, which is repeated again and again like bad roads and train delays, or they try to take side with one camp at the expense of the other.  Some press like Tel Quel seek to “revolutionise” Moroccan society by bringing what they see as provocative news and articles, especially about the monarchy. But the fact that its sale is still one of the lowest compared with the “weight” they put in it proves that the majority of the Moroccans are interested in their daily matters. The press can have meaning when there are local newspapers that deal with what is of the most concerns to the citizens. Even national newspapers in Morocco seem out of touch with the readers as they focus just on particular areas like Casablanca and Rabat (where they can sell more copies). The irony about this is that many Moroccans do not know even who represent them in city councils or the parliament. They do not even know the face of the head of services in their locations because there is no press or media that deal with what should be local issues.

At the same, the press can be a force in redressing certain anomalies. The latest case was the trial of the wife of the judge in Oujda found guilty of torturing a minor maid. It was the big publicity that made an escape for her and her husband, now suspended, impossible.

On the whole, Morocco has great potentials to develop itself at all levels. It is only a matter of will on the part of everyone to redress its ailments. Instead of putting the blame just on the others, one should ask, “what wrong did I do and how I should redress it” instead of making a list of the wrongdoing of the others without having the means to end them.

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Posted on Sunday, November 22nd, 2009

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3 comments on “Morocco at the crossroads of traditions, modernity and press freedom”

  1. Nour-eddine Saoud

    http://www.facebook.com/?sk=messages&tid=1361711376990#!/group.php?gid=75574009545&ref=ts
    Please join and tell us what you think about all the things we should change in Morocco for it to be a great country.


  2. “Some press like Tel Quel seek to “revolutionise” Moroccan society by bringing what they see as provocative news and articles, especially about the monarchy. But the fact that its sale is still one of the lowest compared with the “weight” they put in it proves that the majority of the Moroccans are interested in their daily matters.”

    One does not need to look at sales figures to conclude that the majority of people (be they Moroccan or otherwise) are interested in their “daily matters”.

    The real question is if Moroccans consider the way public affairs are conducted to be part of their “daily matters”. I speculate that it is a resounding “Yes!”, but that decades of state-terror is making them afraid of ropes (li 3adou le7nech…)

    Let’s face it, verdicts in cases around the monarchy are mostly arbitrary, and as long as we don’t even know what is (il)legal to say about the king, most people just stay clear of it.

    P.S: The writing (translation) is simply awful. The author is evidently not familiar with English. Mods? Do your job, please.


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