Monday, July 11, 2011
A Moroccan Slip-Up
By Diana Mukkaled
What was previously tolerated prior to the Arab Spring is now no longer acceptable.
Such revolutions have taken brought opinions and viewpoints into the public domain, outside of the framework of fear and security.
This is something that has happened in the Arab countries where revolutions successfully took place, as well as in other nations that are striving to obtain their freedoms, and even in countries that are striving to stand firm against the winds o change by carryout quick but limited reform.
With regards to things that can no longer be tolerated, this includes the step taken by Moroccan Minister of Information Khalid Naciri. This Moroccan official used his influence to fire two Moroccan journalists – who happen to be brothers – working for an Arab news channel simply because he was not happy with the manner that one of them reported on the Moroccan constitutional referendum. Naciri used his diplomatic position to pressure the Arab news channel in question to fire the two journalists.
Such behaviour transgresses the bounds of professionalism, and goes beyond censorship and revenge, particularly as one of the journalists was fired for simply being related to somebody that the Moroccan minister was targeting. There are many stories of family members and relatives being targeted in revenge, and there are many examples of this in the countries were protests broke out.
This Moroccan incident occurred during the peak of the Arab Spring, and the so-called "Moroccan democratic spring", where the pace of political change and reform in the country has increased after protestors began the "20 February movement" four months ago.
The targeting of these two Moroccan journalists is not a one-off, in a country that has a long history of prisons and detention camps. Yet, returning to modern history, Morocco has witnessed several media setbacks, with journalists such as Rachid Nini being imprisoned, and media outlets being shut down and expelled, with Al-Jazeera's Rabat office being shut down a few months ago. The Moroccan Minister of Information's actions represent a dangerous sign; namely a government minister using his official position to settle a personal score and fire a journalist – and his brother – merely because he did not like the manner that this journalist reported an event.
This incident could have passed unnoticed, just as other similar and more serious incidents did during the pre-revolution era. However we are now in the post-revolution era, and this serves as a serious indication of the weakness of the reforms [in Morocco], even more so had this incident passed without comment or rectification.
Indeed the impact of this single incident can, and will, shake the credibility of the constitutional reforms undertaken by the Moroccan King, which 98 percent of the people of Morocco had voted in favour of.
The Moroccan Minister of Information has harmed these two brothers, which is something that pales in comparison to the harm that he has inflicted on the package of reforms to be undertaken in Morocco. For what do such reforms mean if they do not include an end to politicians intervening in the media? It is fair to say that this is a chronic problem that not only affects Morocco, but the entire Arab world. However the forthcoming Moroccan constitutional reforms may be an opportunity to put an end to this practise in the country.
-This commentary was published in Asharq al-Awsat on 10/07/2011