Just a few months ago, Talk Morocco was merely a vague concept the two of us had tossed around. Though we are both dedicated writers and activists for free speech, we also both have full-time jobs and so at first found taking on such a project overwhelming at best, impossible at worst. Yet here we are.
So how did the idea first come about?
Our format was inspired in part by the Creative Syria forum which Jillian (a Syriaphile) discovered a couple of years ago and which deserves to be acknowledged for the role it has played in uniting Syrian bloggers. We can only hope Talk Morocco will do the same for the Blogoma (Moroccan blogosphere).
The prominence of new media has offered the Moroccan public new ways for expression that were unimaginable just decades ago, when under tight state control over mass media, the only outlets available to convey news and views were either official or partisan press. Although a new species of investigative print media appeared in the market in the past two decades, a wave of seizures and restrictions has limited Morocco’s once distinctively active independent press.
But in its wake came the Internet: In a relatively short amount of time, a lively Moroccan blogosphere has grown increasingly influential, circumventing an obsolescent system of censorship. Bloggers posting in Arabic, French, Spanish, Berber and English deal with different social, political, economic and religious issues that have marked the country’s recent history. In covering the Blogoma for Global Voices Online, we have noticed the rapid growth of this sphere of free speakers. At the same time, we saw a lack of interaction between groups of bloggers who aggregated in virtually separate realms according to their field of interest, location, language of expression, political or cultural background. Moreover, bloggers, the newcomers into the media landscape, seldom interact or share the same platform with professional journalists and authors who once exclusively dominated the space.
Our solution was Talk Morocco, aimed at bringing together these various groups around subjects of common interest. Talk Morocco will provide a platform for established and unknown bloggers, journalists and authors, Moroccans and non-Moroccans, English speakers and non-English speakers, to comment on subjects relating to Morocco and the diaspora.
We chose the first topic–that of free speech in Morocco–for a multitude of reasons, but most of all for how it represents our project on the whole. We, as bloggers and Moroccophiles, recognize the important role of the Blogoma, and believe that one key element of free speech comes from inclusiveness: of different opinions, different people, different voices. And since freedom of expression is, as we see it, a precondition to achieve all other forms of freedoms (thought, religion, association, academic and scientific freedoms), we thought it was appropriate to put forward this fundamental issue as an opening topic for discussion. Recent news coming out from Morocco has been (unfortunately) comforting us on our choice.
We hope that Talk Morocco will effectively connect the dots between different breeds of Moroccan bloggers and be a junction point where bloggers, journalists, and authors can come together and have enlightened and informed discussions on matters related to Morocco.
Jillian and Hisham.