The pro-democracy protests of the Moroccan Spring provided the national media with an open season that could not last long. Then, entrenched ‘untouchable’ topics were debated in the public realm, including those related to the King’s centralised power; today, journalists work in a climate of control over the media fuelled by anti-terrorism slogans and
the popularisation of the model of the journalist as defender of the status quo, in the name of ‘patriotism’.
The Moroccan national media witnessed several short phases of openness, which could not survive the regime’s tactics and its adoption of a hostile stance towards media freedom. These controlled phases of media openness were sporadic and could not provide sustainable conditions to consolidate new investigative practices among journalists.
Despite a new political dynamism, the great diversification of topics tackled by journalists, and the development of investigative reporting on citizens’ daily problems and needs, the resilience of constitutional taboos – the monarchy, Islam and the territorial integrity of the kingdom – made the impact of these developments limited.
Essential media rights are recognised by the new Moroccan constitution of 2011, but lack clear definition, are short of international standards and are often negated by the many exceptions to them. Frequent legal cases against journalists, on the basis of libel or anti-terrorism dispositions, act as strong instruments to deter journalists from challenging
Moral denigration of critical journalists and rights activists – via legal cases based on private affairs or media spin – is used as a recipe to reduce them to silence and to isolate them socially. The use of legal sanctions and economic boycotts against independent media projects means that these projects are unsustainable.
The political and ideological polarisation of the national media acts as a double-edged sword: while it is widening the scope of diversity of views and invigorating plurality in the public space, it is exacerbating the use of the national media for spin and rumours, with the race for the sensational becoming a major feature of media production.
Continuous shifts and mutations in the traditional national media are aggravating the fragility of journalists’ already volatile working conditions. The lack of opportunities for professional advancement and weak job stability are encouraging a wave of migration to other professions.
Today, self-censorship habits are widespread, and journalists fear retribution not only for what they produce but also for their political views. With media investment linked to political and ideological agendas, engagement in support of democratic values is not a priority for Moroccan journalists.