It’s no secret that journalists who toe the Moroccan government’s official line are a majority in Morocco. Many reasons lie behind that, one is that most journalists who dared to trespass the red-lines were sent to prison or banned from practising journalism. Think of Ali Lamrabet, Driss Chatane, Taoufik Bouachrine, and Abou Bakr Jamai.
The common denominator between the Moroccan government journalists is to avoid shedding light on all topics that will surely enrage the regime, such as the monarchy, Islam, the judiciary, and the Sahara. This is why Moroccans had no choice but to boycott the newspapers and TV channels those journalists work for and look for other forms of journalism that will let them know about those taboo topics and see the face of their country without cosmetics.
Citizen media, as a result, has become among the principal sources most Moroccans heavily rely on for news and information on their country. Citizen journalists, in brief, report on issues the Moroccan government does not want its citizens to know about. And what really makes most professional journalists different from citizen ones is that the latter see Morocco as it is, not as the government wants them to see it.
According to Mark Glaser, a freelance journalist who has written many articles on new media, “The idea behind citizen journalism is that people without professional journalism training can use the tools of modern technology and the global distribution of the Internet to create, augment or fact-check media on their own or in collaboration with others. For example, you might write about a city council meeting on your blog or in an online forum. Or you could fact-check a newspaper article from the mainstream media and point out factual errors or bias on your blog. Or you might snap a digital photo of a newsworthy event happening in your town and post it online. Or you might videotape a similar event and post it on a site such as YouTube.”
Examples of the events that Moroccans, without citizen journalists, would have known nothing about are the scandal of the communication minister Khalid Naciri and his son, the protests that some forgotten areas in Morocco have witnessed, including Sidi Ifni and Tarhjicht, and the jobless people in Morocco who protest at unemployment through burning themselves alive. Needless to say almost all Moroccan TV channels and newspapers did cover such events.
The reasons behind the emergence of citizen journalists in Morocco are many, one is reporting without red-lines. A slew of Moroccan citizen journalists have discussed topics the majority of professional journalists have never even thought of discussing. It is, for instance, the writing on the monarchy and judiciary that led Mohamed Erraji and Hassan Barhoun respectively to prison. By the way, the majority of citizen journalists in Morocco post articles, videos, and photos on their weblogs and some social networks under a pseudonym for fear of being arrested.
Finally, citizen journalists are not people who hate Morocco, have bad intentions towards it, or aim at tarnishing its image abroad. Citizen journalists are people who harshly criticize their country not because they hate it, but because they want it to become a real place of democracy, freedom of expression, human rights, and equality before the law. It really honors me to be one of them.