State of the media

Morocco’s press is pluralist and dynamic and enjoys a liberty that is rare in the Arab world. It is free to investigate and debate many previously taboo issues, including social problems. But freedom of the press has its limits. There is regular interference in the press by the intelligence services and self-censorship by journalists is commonplace. Written press Morocco has a wide range of dailies and weeklies in both Arabic and French. Among the most important are Le Matin, L’Economiste, L’Opinion, Aujourd’hui Le Maroc and Bayane al-Yaoume. About 70% of the press in Morocco is privately owned. Due to the high illiteracy rate readership is low. The number of sold copies is about 350.000 per day and less than 1% of the population reads newspapers everyday. Audiovisual media In 2002 Morocco opened up the market for independent broadcasters with the establishment of the High Authority of Audiovisual Communication, which licenses TV and radio stations. The government owns Societe Nationale de Radiodiffusion et de Television and holds about 60% of the shares of 2M. Medi 1, based in Tangier, is privately owned and independent. Many Moroccans own satellite dishes and foreign TV stations are popular. There are three radio networks, operated by the Societe Nationale de Radiodiffusion et de Television, 2M and Medi1. Online media Internet in Morocco started in 1995. According to official estimates there are now more than one million Internet users. Many of them access the Internet through the estimated existing 1500 Internet cafes. According to various reports, Morocco Internet users enjoy a high degree of freedom. Reports about the government blocking websites are few, even when these websites offer critical views regarding the Western Sahara. However, as the general press freedom situation is deteriorating, there are currently more reports about websites being blocked by the government. News agencies The government owns the official news agency, Maghreb Arab Press. Media organizations The main representative organization for journalists is the Syndicat National de la Presse Marocaine (SNPM), which is a member of the International Federation of Journalists. It was founded in 1963 as a professional association with the aim of defending the freedom of opinion and expression. Several human rights organizations, such as the Moroccan Association for Human Rights and the Moroccan Organization of the Human Rights, also promote press freedom and freedom of opinion and expression. The Espace Associatif is a network of human rights and related ngo’s. A wide range of professional organizations and ngo’s furthermore have created a independent body to monitor the press and freedom of expression: L’Instance Indépendante de la Déontologie de la Presse et de la Défense de la Liberté d’Expression. The OJD Maroc publishes circulation numbers for many Moroccan dailies, weeklies and other magazines. Media policies In 2002 a new press law was adopted. It amends the Code de la Presse from 1958. Together with the 1995 Fundamental Law for Professional Journalists these laws regulate the press sector. Licenses for domestic newspapers and periodicals are registered by the government. The 2002 Law reduced the penalties for journalists found guilty of defamation. However, prison sentences still apply for those found guilty of defaming the royal family. The defamation clause was also expanded. Article 29 of the law declares that the royal family may ban Moroccan or foreign newspapers from operating if they “undermine Islam, the monarchy, national territorial integrity or public order”. In the audiovisual field the state monopoly on radio and television broadcasting was lifted. A Royal Decree in September 2002 led to the establishment of the Higher Authority for Radio and Television Broadcasting. However, the Journalist Syndicate continues to campaign for the independence of the audiovisual sector and complete implementation of proposed reforms. Media developments and trends When King Mohammed VI assumed the throne in 1999, he promised to strengthen press freedom, safeguard plurality of information and to guarantee the modernization of a sector. Already during the reign of his father, government control on the media was relaxed and for a while the Moroccan press seemed to set an example for a free press in the region. However, in recent years, government again has increased its control on the media, mainly through prosecuting journalists.