Morocco World News
Fez, December 2, 2011
Three years have elapsed since Al Jazeera Network was banned from operating within Morocco’s borders and ceased to cover news relating to the Maghreb from its Rabat office.
On June 7, 2008, Al Jazeera’s bureau chief, Hassan al Rachidi, was convicted of “disseminating false information” regarding clashes between security forces and demonstrators in the southern port city of Sidi Ifni during a protest over lack of opportunities and rising unemployment, especially among the youth.
According to the Moroccan Communications Minister Khaled Naciri, the editorial policy of the Doha-based channel was perceived as “biased and unfair” toward Moroccan national issues.
“Al Jazeera network breached the legal boundaries within which foreign media conduct their work when covering stories, notably those that deal with Morocco’s number one issue, the Sahara, by favoring one side over the other,” Naciri told reporters after the closure of Al Jazeera office in Rabat, in an implicit indication that the network was siding with the Polisario Front.
After Moroccan authorities suspended the Rabat based Al Jazeera daily television news bulletin that was covering the Maghreb countries (Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia, Libya and Mauritania), the event went viral, and it increasingly gained attention and stirred controversy.
This story has remained open to debate and discussion. However, after three years, signs of the possibility to grant credentials to the network are looming on the horizon. The latest visit of Qatar’s Emir, Sheikh Hamad ben Khalifa Al-Thani, to Morocco was reflective of the determination of the two countries to further strengthen their brotherly relations and promote bilateral cooperation in the best interest of their peoples.
The Emir of Qatar held bilateral talks with King Mohammed VI on regional and international issues of common concern.
On this ground, four bilateral partnership agreements were signed in a ceremony presided by King Mohamed VI and the Emir of Qatar, Sheikh Hamad Bin Khalifa Al-Thani.
The first partnership agreement provides for the establishment of a Moroccan-Qatari investment company. The two countries also signed a Memorandum of Understanding voicing their commitment to cooperate in the field of tourism.
An additional Memorandum of Understanding on cooperation in the sector of mining was signed between the Moroccan Office of Hydrocarbons and Mining (ONHYM) and a Qatari mining company.
Analysts pointed out that the visit went beyond economic cooperation. The possibility to reopen the Al Jazeera office is believed to have been, also, among the issues of discussion between the leaders of the two countries.
A well-informed source told Morocco World News, that it is likely to see Al Jazeera resuming its activities in Morocco. The reopening of Al Jazeera would be granted on the condition that the channel deal objectively with issues related to Morocco’s territorial integrity.
The qualitative improvement of relations between Morocco and the State of Qatar is perceived to have come as a result of the role the two countries played during the Libyan revolution that toppled Muammar Gaddafi.
Both Rabat and Doha have been coordinating efforts in international bodies thanks to the convergence of their views concerning several international issues.
Editing by Adnane Bennis