Moroccan broadcast media reforms stir debate
By Siham Ali for Magharebia in Rabat – 05/09/12
After months of controversy, the Moroccan government finally adopted a set of public-sector broadcast media regulations.
The amendments, passed on August 16th, are now under examination by the High Authority for Audio-visual Communications (HACA). The public will only find out the details of the new regulations after they are approved by the HACA.
Communications Minister and government spokesman Mustapha El Khalfi, however, noted that the reforms aim to boost pluralism, openness, diversity, balance, good governance and transparency of public service.
The minister has come under fire for what some describe as a desire to take control over the national channels.
His detractors criticised El Khalfi for trying to lower the number of French-language broadcasts on 2M Channel, determine programme schedules and oblige the channel to broadcast calls to prayer.
Housing Minister Nabil Benabdellah, who is also the Secretary-General of the Party of Progress and Socialism (PPS) and former communications minister, attacked the young PJD minister for bypassing the government consultation process in order to have the documents adopted by the HACA.
MPs will debate the issue when parliament reconvenes.
Some of them denounced state interference in media editorial policies, in particular the obligation for TV programme-makers to invite religious figures.
"We have no issue with religious programmes, but it becomes an issue when you have to invite religious figures onto every programme," said Socialist Union of Popular Forces (USFP) head Ahmed Zaydi.
The government spokesman argued that there was no ideological agenda behind the first set of regulations.
As for foreign languages, he said that Morocco has always been open to other cultures and will always remain so. No political party has the right to impose its own view on the public, El Khalfi added. The proposed changes embody the desired level of pluralism, he said.
The public remains divided on the issue. Some back El Khalfi's position, while others side with the critics.
Siham Choutairi, an economics student, said that "the minister of communication should have consulted Parliament members before the regulations were adopted". She said that imposing Islamic ideology on state television channels is not a wise decision, especially since a religious channel already exists.
"I hope that the new regulations are balanced and open," she concluded.
Jalal Fakiri, a sales executive, disagreed. He argued that the issue of the regulations has been blown out of all proportion by certain parties. "The PJD was elected by citizens and must implement its own reforms in all sectors, and it's up to voters in the next legislative elections to reward it or punish it," he said. "El Khalfi had to make concessions to his critics. We'll see how far these concessions go in due course."
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