Morocco/ 4.2 Recent policy issues and debates  

4.2.6 Media pluralism and content diversity

Nature of Media Structure and Ownership (Public, Commercial, Non-Profit):

Media ownership in Morocco varies among governmental, private and mixed.

All of Morocco’s 10 television stations are publicly owned, run and controlled, with the exception of Medi 1 Sat.

There are fourteen radio stations, which are all publicly owned. 'SAWA', formerly the Arabic transmission of VOA, operates beyond the applicable regulations, based on a special agreement between the U.S. and Morocco.

Published media are mainly owned by private institutions (there are about 698 different privately owned publications in Morocco). There are no more than 26 political party newspapers.

The Supreme Authority for Audio-visual Communications (HACA) has for some years been speaking about licensing a large number of private audio and visual stations, but no new stations have yet been introduced.

Electronic media facilities have also recently been active in Morocco due to the expansion of internet connectivity across the country. There are about twenty internet service providers, the majority of which are private. This service, however, is still in its earliest stages.

Electronic media journalism in Morocco is on the rise, some are public and official, while most of them are from the  private sector.

As of 2013, the Government of Morocco, have worked to prepare a draft project for a legal framework for electronic press to enhance professional practices based on the principle of freedom and responsibility. It would define original electronic journalism in isolation from any other type of electronic publishing, protect intellectual property rights including an owner’s original electronic materials and information, expand the judicial authority in that regard, in addition to the cancellation of penalties involving deprivation of liberty, as well as to provide an electronic White Paper for the advancement of the press, and the inclusion of electronic journalism in ad hoc public support systems specific for the written press in the framework of the new program 2013 - 2017 with a view to improving the quality of electronic media.

Media Monopoly Prevention Measures:
In theory, there are constitutional and legal provisions that emphasise freedom of opinion, media, publication and expression. But these freedoms are still restricted by other laws, some of which are based on the status quo, while others are included in an obscure list of prohibitions, or controlled by open-ended legal interpretations, the most recent of which is the anti-terrorism law.

On the other hand, authorities practically control audio-visual service throughout Morocco, using both public and “private” stations. Authorities unilaterally exploit printed and electronic press by owning the only news press in Morocco (Maghreb Arabe Presse).

Nature of Partnership between Local and Foreign Production:
The state of local media production directly impacts demand for foreign media. In audio production, low-quality local output, media obscurity and the restrictions on expression have enhanced the so-called “cyber migration” from local to foreign channels.

Similarly, Moroccans turn to foreign print media because the local press is constrained by the Ministry of Communication. This Ministry has the right to ban any printed foreign press on grounds of violating the code of respect for the monarch, dealing with the Sahara issue, or contradicting the prevailing traditions and religious thoughts. 

Most Debatable and Up-to-Date Media Issues:

  • Free access to information and a lack of professional transparency.
  • Freedom of expression with regards to the “Sacred Trinity”: the Monarchy, the Sahara Issue, and Religion.
  • Obscurity of free media.
  • Unclear limits as to when journalists' freedom ends and other people's freedom begins.
  • Freeing the media from the security approaches of the Ministry of Interior and security agencies.
  • Conflicts of interest between professional commitments and adherence to national causes.
  • he independent press’s introduction of young opposition parties within the so-called rotation government as a means of opposing the political vacuum.
  • Paralysing free press through the arbitrary manipulation of different laws and regulations.
  • Continued use of repressive measures against media through imprisonment, heavy fines, bans, suspension and prohibitions.
  • Problem of monitoring and self-monitoring.

Type of Government Support for Release and Distribution of Local Productions:
Within the media, some demand regulation of the advertising market and allocation of government financial support. Others only demand that authorities stop prosecuting members of the media and cancel the heavy fines sanctioned by the courts against media personnel and their institutions.

Still other media groups focus on economic demands, requesting housing, travel and accommodation stipends for journalists on special assignments abroad.

Provision of Specialised Cultural Channels or Regular Cultural or Artistic TV Programs:
There is a special cultural channel (Channel 4), in addition to weekly cultural programs broadcast on Channels 1 & 2.

Special Training Courses for Journalists to Stimulate Their Interest in Cultural Subjects, Improve Their Intellectual Encounters and Ensure Multilateral Thoughts:
The majority of journalists are not graduates of specialised educational institutions (media colleges, press institutes, etc.). Nearly half of the journalists in Morocco have never attended training courses on professional ethics or related subjects. This situation is attributable to both the:

  • Limited number of these courses, which are organised by different NGOs, and sometimes through foreign authorities' contributions.
  • Limited number of seats allotted for these training courses. These courses are basically designed to serve the interests of selected groups (which reflects the unequal opportunities available to those working in media). 

Chapter published: 05-05-2016