Translated by Hisham from الإعلام الالكتروني ورفض الواقع في المغرب
Experts seem to agree that online media, including blogging (or citizen media), has become an important component in the body of the global media. This almost makes the traditional printed press look like a thing of the past. This has been made evident by the major losses suffered by international newspapers and their subsequent transformation, relying more and more on the Internet. One example among many others is that of the century old The Christian Science Monitor, which took the bold step back in 2008 to focus its attention primarily on its online edition. An then of course there are media organizations present exclusively online like major technology magazines PC World and Info World whose editor Patrick McGovern once declared: “paper editions have become yesterday’s news. Now people want to learn about the news as soon as they happen.”
My everyday experience [as a journalist], in accordance with the findings of the most recent studies, points to the increasing importance of online media: journalism, blogging, podcasts, social networking. It is a new media populated by a new breed of reporters, or so called citizen journalists or bloggers who deliver the kind of news the traditional channels of information tend to ignore. In several occasions those bloggers played a crucial role in the coverage of major world events during which videos were taken by personal cell phone cameras and then viewed by thousands of spectators on television channels and distributed by news agencies across the world. Even at the political level, now demonstrations and protests are initiated mainly on social forums instead of the streets. Even election campaigns are now waged largely online, as we have seen with President Barack Obama adopting Internet and blogging as a major part of his presidential campaign. That’s why developed countries today pay a lot of attention to the Internet and allocate resources to educate bloggers, online journalists and online media professionals. There is also an increasing number of global blogging contests and more professionals who follow this field very closely and promote the Internet for the freedom it offers bloggers especially in developing countries.
But unfortunately we find that all this is absent in Morocco. The majority of the official parties involved deny that those realities are even taking place, and some still consider that blogging and online reporting are the work of reckless teenagers. There are also those who are convinced that printed media will survive as long as life continues on Earth and that blogging and online journalism are passing phenomena that will burst like a bubble. This is depressing especially when you hear those comments from people supposed to promote Internet in this country. This shows primarily a lack of culture and knowledge from officials who are having trouble keeping up with all that is happening in the world of technology. This ignorance should ring an alarm bell about the future of online media in this country and should accelerate the fight against electronic illiteracy. Otherwise this will constitute a major problem in the near future. Training programs should be proposed as a matter of urgency. Officials on the highest level of government do not have e-mail accounts and some do not know how to use a computer or when they know they are mostly incapable of dealing with the online world. By contrast, we find in other countries that the political elite has blogs and uses Twitter and social networking websites like Facebook to get its messages across and try to influence the public opinion. But here, we only see officials during election time to give redundant speeches.
Bloggers were jailed recently in Morocco. Those issuing the arrest warrants most probably do not know the importance of the Internet or the blogosphere and can not distinguish a journalist who has a regional or even a national audience from a blogger who writes for the rest of the world and who might have thousands, perhaps millions of followers and readers. Conversely, there are some bloggers who do not realize the importance or potential impact of the words they use or the topics they chose to deal with. I think they also need training and education to be able to make the difference between slander or libel and constructive criticism. The huge gap existing today between bloggers and citizen journalists in general on the one hand, and the officials on the other, generates fear and mistrust, but both have to work together to keep up with the pace of progress. This is especially true in the case of Morocco who wants to use its position as a privileged partner of the European Union. It’s a disgrace to see bloggers dragged to tribunals in Morocco only because they have expressed their opinions. Officials must understand that the time of censorship and harassment should be gone for good. We live in an era awash with new technology and we represent a new generation with different ideas and lifestyles.
It is in the country’s interest that officials (especially at the Ministry of Communication) draw more attention to the importance of the community of bloggers and work to ensure that everybody can express their views freely. Citizen journalists ought to be considered a fundamental part of the media of today. They are becoming the voices of the country abroad, acting more and more like ambassadors, whether we like it or not.