CASABLANCA — Within a global context marked by an important rise of extremism at all levels, Morocco has, for more than a decade now, prioritized the fight against hate speeches and violent extremism in the framework of the undertaken reforms. This has been done to strengthen its situation as a state of law. Under this effort, the roles of alternative and community media have been prominent despite some emerging challenges.
Morocco is among the first Arab countries that liberated the field of media. The reform of the broadcasting in Morocco was in relation with the process of democratization that has been carried out in the last decade, and mainly since the advent of the King Mohamed VI to the throne.
The liberalization took place in 2002 as the state wrote-off direct monopoly over broadcasting industry and established the High Authority of Audiovisual Communication (HACA) that is responsible for the sector.
As a result, there were new licenses issued for 19 private radio stations, enabled them—and together with state-owned TV networks and radio stations—to pose as a public service broadcasting, conforming to the specifications and contract-program.
Although the liberalization has been beneficial for private radio industry, the case is different for the television networks. Currently, no new licenses are issued for a private TV station due to unavailing advertising sector in the country.
The liberalization has not also reached the alternative media, especially community radio stations, despite its acknowledged roles in more than 154 countries around the world.
It can be noted, those media—which are supposed to represent the national media sector—have also suffered from management crisis that makes them unable to determine their positioning. They are failed to become reference for all citizens in terms of information, education, and entertainment. Ironically, according to Mediametry, Moroccans are turned to satellite TV and internet.
As movements in enforcing human rights and campaigns against radicalization have been more prominent than before, Moroccan civil society tend to resort to media to achieve their goals. Under the situation, the civil society activists encouraged the establishment of alternative media that offer more citizen participations in producing intercultural and religious discourses in order to counter the spreading hate speeches. While the online media in Morocco can only reach a small portion of population due to the high rate of illiteracy and digital divide, the establishment of alternative media is proven to be more effective approach.
The opportunity of nurturing community media is potentially open under the Moroccan law. In fact the 2011 Constitution has put forward the right to freedom of speech and the right to communication. Moreover, the government has prioritized the field of the press and media, notably through new reformation of press-code, the regulation of the e-media, the establishment of press council, as well as planned-restructuration of television. The government has also announced the policy of switching to the digital and initiated a global reform of the law 77.03 governing the audiovisual communication.
However, there are still many things that should be concerned regarding the effort to develop the community media. Violations of the freedom of media still exist as recorded by Press Union. In addition, the civil society organizations are still prevented from establishing community media that would favour the development of a pluralistic information society and reflect the linguistic, cultural, and social diversity—aspects required to prevent and resolve conflicts.
Founder of the Unesco Chair in Public and Community, Jamalddine Naji, told Maghreb Arabe Press, that Morocco has put together all the necessary conditions for advancing in the area of community media.
He further added in an interview with Yabiladi Magazine, “Every country has its own rhythm but this will depend on every effort that will be made to fill this gap. Now civil society has to fight to the right to freely create community radio stations.”
In term of regulation, the procedure engaged in the reform framework is slow and it hinders the liberalization of a determining field to consolidate development and democracy.
For this reason, coalitions and advocacy networks were launched, particularly since 2011, in order to reform the media sector, affording access to information, a transparent and participating public, protection for journalists, and community radio stations.