New York - While Morocco's recent efforts to "Moroccanize" 2M channel are welcome and long overdue, they remain dismally ineffective. The proposed media reforms do not truly address the everyday concerns of citizens as they approach the problem superficially. Many Moroccans do not hold 2M TV in high esteem due to the channel's internal problems as well as its abysmal and parochial programming. As such, Mr. Mustapha El Khalfi, Minister of Communication and spokesperson of the Government, introduced a set of ethical provisions designed to regulate and enhance the effectiveness and professionalism of public media. Regrettably, the package of reforms remains symbolic at best as it does not dare to touch the fundamental and chronic dysfunctions of Moroccan public TV channels, including the tendency to cover everything except public concerns.
New York – While Morocco’s recent efforts to “Moroccanize” 2M channel are welcome and long overdue, they remain dismally ineffective. The proposed media reforms do not truly address the everyday concerns of citizens as they approach the problem superficially. Many Moroccans do not hold 2M TV in high esteem due to the channel’s internal problems as well as its abysmal and parochial programming. As such, Mr. Mustapha El Khalfi, Minister of Communication and spokesperson of the Government, introduced a set of ethical provisions designed to regulate and enhance the effectiveness and professionalism of public media. Regrettably, the package of reforms remains symbolic at best as it does not dare to touch the fundamental and chronic dysfunctions of Moroccan public TV channels, including the tendency to cover everything except public concerns.
Among the reforms that caused the indignation of the government’s opponents and proponents was the reduction of the time allotted to 2M’s French language transmissions to 20%. For many Moroccans, even 20% of French programming on 2M constitutes a strong influence of a foreign language that is pervasive in Morocco’s business, culture and educational realms. Ironically, the substantial use of Moliere’s language has been happening in a country where the bulk of its citizens are illiterate and are unable to read or write their own names in Arabic or Tamazight. Moreover, the Moroccan constitution vows to protect Arabic and Tamazight. In article (5), the constitution states that “Arabic remains the official language of the state.” The same article states that the Government is responsible to protect, develop and promote Arabic language, in addition to Tamazight, the other official language and “common heritage to all Moroccans without exception.”
As expected, Minister El Khalfi’s reforms elicited a very strong and defensive response from 2M officials and their sycophants. 2M sympathizers and officials waged a political and ideological debate whereby the channel’s ‘identity’ and ‘autonomy’ were used as pretext to send an encrypted message to both Mr. El Khalfi and the PJD. But to the truly informed, 2M’s undeclared war against Mr. El Khalfi’s reforms is a desperate attempt to thwart government initiatives to reform key public institutions, eradicate corruption and hold accountable those responsible for the deteriorating state of Moroccan TV.
Among the 2M officials to lash out against Minister El Khalefi are the channel’s managing director, Mr. Salim cheikh, as well as news director, Ms. Samira Sitail. While Minister El Khalfi earned his post through transparent legislative elections, we wonder how were Mr. Shaikh and Ms. Sitail able to get such coveted positions? Moreover, while the Minister represents the interests of and is accountable to the public, 2M officials are busy producing programming that does not represent the public interest. For this reason, we must ask a few questions: does this polarization we are witnessing imply a much compounded and hidden polarization of two opposing lobbies with conflicting ideologies? Is our television a public institution governed and managed by an incumbent chosen to represent the public? Or it is an official tool designed to shape public opinion? Do we want a public television whose policy and programming is designed by a democratically elected government? Or do we want one that is driven by special interests groups who are not subject to accountability?
Some will suggest that the deterioration of our television is part of a larger conspiracy to tame Moroccans and get them to accept cultural leniency and permissiveness under the guise of openness and modernity. Others will blame the regression on lack of creativity, widespread illiteracy, chronic mismanagement and a culture of corruption. I think the problem is a hybrid of the above factors. 2M TV has long been managed anarchically based on partisanship and the exclusion of Moroccan pluralism. This resulted in an exponential decline of content quality and a prevalence of colloquial language programs. In addition, programs included vulgarity that disrespects the vast majority of conservative and moderate Moroccan families. Sadly, those responsible for this unfortunate situation continue to enjoy privileged jobs in their Ivory Towers as if this public institution is their personal inheritance.
The outrage expressed by 2M’s director and his cronies stems from their fear of losing their private agenda. Efforts to reform public media and improve management along the lines of accountability, transparency and inclusiveness, threatens the system of nepotism that has long plagued public television. The proposed reforms also challenge the monopoly of a minority, the Francophone lobby, over Moroccan media. More importantly, 2M officials, and by extension powerful segments of Moroccan society, fear reforms that might create an editorial policy likely to eradicate political and ideological indoctrination and lay the ground for constructive and insightful information. Mr. Sheikh was right when he said that minister El khalfi’s reforms will change 2M’s identity. This is an imported identity that some personalities within the channel, as well as the diehard Francophone lobby, want to impose on society as a fait acompli to serve private interests and perpetuate the French linguistic and cultural dominance on Moroccan society.
The confrontation over reforming public media is but a shadow of a real and fierce invisible confrontation between two conflicting currents. On one hand, there is a shrewd, powerful and well-connected lobby that will do whatever is necessary to contain “threats” to its political and economic interests. To achieve their goals, they resort to futile attempts to demonize and question the motives of the reforms. They also manipulate their ideological differences with moderate Islamist ministers and characterize the latter’s proposed reforms religiously motivated, therefore constituting an encroachment on civil liberties.
The other group is composed of members of the PJD who made it clear that honoring their campaign pledges and materializing their political project is their top priority. The government, or at least its PJD members, is aware that introducing gradual reforms, based on good governance and the rule of law, is key to ending dysfunction and anarchy within public institutions. They are also aware that implementing the provisions of the new constitution is a prerequisite if Morocco is to break away from corruption and nepotism and usher in a new era of accountability and transparency.
Today, Morocco’s political landscape is more polarized than ever before. The PJD-lead government is backed by grassroots legitimacy, embodied in transparent and fair legislative elections, and a new constitution that reinforces justice and democracy. Those who oppose the PJD continue to be a privileged minority that resists real socio-economic and political change. It is about time to accelerate the pace of reforms and render their effects meaningful and measurable as opposed to hollow and purely symbolic.
Edited by Hicham Elkoustaf
Adnane Bennis is co-founder and managing editor of Morocco World News. You can follow him on twitter @BennisAdnane
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