By Loubna Flah
By Loubna Flah
Morocco World News
Casablanca, January 14, 2012
On Thursday, the Union of Moroccan Professional Caricaturists held a conference in partnership with the Union of Moroccan Journalists (UMJ) under the theme “Protecting the Moroccan Journalist” in the Union headquarters in Casablanca.
The conference was opened by a reading of the UMJ 2011 report, which provides a retrospective survey of the abuses committed against Moroccan journalists during the past year. The report listed a number of dismissal cases of Moroccan journalists by media corporations. In fact, many media companies have expelled Moroccan journalists stating inadmissible reasons while the real vindications are often political.
According to the report, Eco Media has fired a journalist and a media technician, Al Massa media has laid off eight journalists, Moroccan channel 2M has dismissed two journalists namely Mr. Debbab and Mr. Drone, and the Amazigh channel has not honored its obligations towards newly recruited journalists whose contracts have not be regularized. The report denounces the infringement on journalists’ basic rights such as holidays and compensation by the major press companies that are their employers. These illegal practices orchestrated against journalists constitute a real breach of the Associate Professional Convention that was signed jointly by journalists’ representative committees and the media companies.
Redoune Hafiani who was recently barred from entering his office in Assabah where he spent 11 years, paved the way for interventions in the conference. The first sentence he uttered was, “I want to congratulate the rap singer Mouad al Haked for his liberation last Thursday and I would like to compliment him for choosing music as a channel for militancy.”
Afterwards, Hafiani gave an account of his dismissal story. In fact, he was outraged when security agents barred him from entering the newspaper’s building. He was even denied the right to fetch documents and the personal items he left in his office. He described this maneuver as humiliating to the community of journalists, who dedicate their lives for this noble profession.
Hafiani added that he had been continuously pestered by members of the editorial board on many occasions for taking personal stands on several issues. His freedom of speech was repeatedly curtailed, especially when he expressed solidarity with Rachid Nini , a journalist who was jailed in 2011, and when he opened channels of dialogue with the 20th February movement, who prompted the Morocco’s constitutional reforms. The dismissal decision was made and enforced without any prior notice, mail correspondence or official announcement.
Nevertheless, dismissal procedures stipulate that a committee of the Ministry of Communication summon both the employer and the complainant represented by their lawyers. This committee is entitled to gauge whether dismissal procedures have been observed and whether the reasons behind the dismissal are legally admissible. Hafiani revealed that the Eco media managers recently promised him clemency provided that he submits an apology letter. At this moment, Hafiani’s face flushed with pride and he asserted, “My dignity is a red line that should never be crossed”
Hafiani vehemently denounced all kinds of repression on journalists’ freedom of speech and rallied to the cause of dozen of journalists who were harassed for expressing their opinions. He ascribes this deteriorated situation to the apathy of journalists’ unions, which failed to issue a cohesive strategy to combat worsening practices. He openly made a request to the current Minister of Communication to consider journalists’ independence and welfare as sine qua non condition for granting subsidies to media companies.
Tawfik Nadiri is another journalist and media expert who was dismissed from al Massae for a “stupid” reason as he explained. He was convened by the newspaper’s director in order to explain his wearing of a traditional “Jellabah” while he was covering an artistic event. He added that he was urged for a long time to comply with certain editorial lines that ran against his convictions. Nadiri declared that he has issued a lawsuit against the newspaper and rejoiced that the lawsuit proposal was accepted by a judiciary panel.
Hassan Vizi, a seasoned journalist blamed the media corporations for this regression in journalism in Morocco. He argues that the managerial strategies of media companies are more centered on massive production rather than relevance and quality. Hence, “the journalist becomes a machine and the newspaper a news factory”. This utilitarian approach to journalism remains a stumbling block towards developing an independent press with high ethical standards.
Mohamed El Hajjam, a journalist based in the US, confessed that the arguments behind Nadiri’s dismissal are totally nonsensical. He added that journalists in America are praised and awarded for their contributions to the expansion of newspaper readership. El Hajjam argued that in case of conflict with editorial boards, journalists are protected from any retributive treatment. They can defend their interests and seek compensation for the profits made by the media corporations out of their published articles. Hence, media corporations often opt for an amicable settlement rather than costly trials liable to smearing their organization’s image.
The journalists present at the conference unanimously condemned the restrictions on journalists’ freedom of speech as well as different forms of abuse they are subjected to. Yet, one can glance a glimpse of hope looming behind their affronted looks and their impassioned tones. In fact, many journalists are rather optimistic to see Mohammed al Khalfi, a former journalist well acquainted with the intrinsic troubles of the profession, at the helm of the ministry of Communication. They cast expectations and hopes that the young minister brings about a palpable improvement in their situation.
Edited by Benjamin Villanti
Loubna Flah is a Moroccan national. She earned a master degree in Biochemistry from the Mohammedia faculty of science and technologies. She obtained also a bachelor degree in English studies from Ain Chok University after writing a dissertation about the aspects of sexism in Moroccan Arabic. She graduated from the Ecole Normale Superieure in Rabat as a high school teacher of English.
© Morocco World News