Rabat, Morocco: From July 15th-16th, the 5th International Conference on Freedom of the Media on "Communication and freedom: challenging perceptions" was organized by the Centre for Studies and Research in Social Sciences.
The speakers represented international organizations such as IREX Europe, Freedom House, Reporters without Borders, Amnesty International, IFJ, and CPJ, as well as representatives of trade associations, national and international media, and experts in the field communication and media. Flora Graioni, Deputy Director of IREX Europe, was invited to present the work of NGOs on media education, including the example of the Strengthening Independent Media and Media Literacy in Moldova project lead by IREX Europe. In the new media landscape, characterized by a proliferation of messages and sources, media education is essential as it allows media users to categorize, analyze and prioritize the continuous flow of information, and to use social media to be responsible and informed.
The conference, supported by the Ministry of Communication of Morocco, was held at a key moment for the media in Morocco, due to the new 2016 law on press and publishing, which was adopted unanimously by the House of Representatives.
Moroccan media has been evaluated in the rankings of international organizations such as RSF, Freedom House or IREX’s Media Sustainability Index. These rankings have been criticized as they place Morocco among the worst performers in the region, not taking into account the sector’s improvements in recent months, as highlighted by the Minister of Communication, Spokesman of the Government Mustapha Khalfi. These legal developments include the adoption of laws on professional journalism, which will allow for a broader participatory approach, and a greater openness from organizations, institutions and sectors.
Yasmina Kacha, Head of Reporters Without Borders office for the Middle East and North Africa (Mena) said at the conference that the legal environment is one of the main indicators used by these organizations for assessing freedom of the press. She said the implementation of the 88-13 bill in its present form will be an improvement since it includes more advanced provisions compared to the existing legal framework.
For now, RSF ranks Morocco 131 in press freedom. Each organization has developed different criteria for the ranking of freedom of expression, freedom of the press, etc, so it is important to compare and analyze the criteria carefully. If the new Moroccan law on press and publishing will make improvements in the sector, much more remains to be done. According to data from l’Afrobarometer, 43% of respondents said in 2015 that freedom of expression had not changed since the Arab Spring. In addition in 2015, several journalists were convicted of defamation and received either prison sentences or heavy fines.