Rabat - The High Authority of Audiovisual Communication (HACA), Morocco’s broadcasting regulatory body, has issued a warning on Sunday to state-run TV channel SNRT and to Medi1 TV over their coverage of the Hirak, the protest movement in Al Hoceima, in which misleading images in their news reports were broadcast.
Rabat – The High Authority of Audiovisual Communication (HACA), Morocco’s broadcasting regulatory body, has issued a warning on Sunday to state-run TV channel SNRT and to Medi1 TV over their coverage of the Hirak, the protest movement in Al Hoceima, in which misleading images in their news reports were broadcast.
MED Radio was also censured for hate speech uttered by one of its guests.
The Higher Council for Audiovisual Communication (CSCA), the decision-making body of the HACA, has sanctioned the National Radio and Television Company (SNRT), Medi1TV and MEDRadio for violations of legal and regulatory requirements.
The first Moroccan TV channel, Al Oula, Amzigh speaking TV station, Tamazight, and the Tangier-based, Medi1 TV, all received warnings from HACA over their May 27 and 28 broadcasts of video reports which showed acts of violence and vandalism in Al Hoceima between fans of the local football team and supporters of Casablanca’s Wydad.
The three channels used the footage to accuse Al Hoceima protesters of violence during demonstrations. As a consequence, the state-run TV stations came under huge criticism from social media users.
HACA slammed the stations for not telling their viewers the footage was related to another event, which might have led people to believe that the acts of violence shown in the footage were the “crimes” for which some protesters are being prosecuted.
The HACA noted that some of the images were described by the three channels as happening during a Rif protest. They were also credited with being the reason behind the decision of the Attorney General of the Al Hoceima Court of Appeal to arrest some Hirak protesters.
The images were, in fact, derived from footage of “acts of violence carried during the organization of a sporting event of the national professional football championship in March 2017,” the HACA pointed out.
“These images and sequences were taken out of context … without disclosing that they are archival images,” thus misleading public opinion.
The HACA deemed this mistake to be all the more serious since the footage was “simultaneously broadcasted with scenes where law enforcement officers have been victims of acts of vandalism.” The action put the newspapers in non-compliance with the legal and regulatory requirements in the matter, the same source added.
SNRT tried to justify the misrepresentation of the images of clashes, which showed skirmishes between hooligans of two soccer clubs, as events concerning unrest in the Rif region.
Al Aoula stated that it had “merely relayed the statement of the Attorney General of the King near the Court of Appeal in Al Hoceima dated Saturday, May 27,” adding that “the events that have taken place in the city are linked and can not be divided.”
Another warning was issued to private radio station, Med Radio, over statements made by one of its guests against Nasser Zafzafi, the detained leading member of the Hirak.
In late May, radio personality, Mamoun Dribi, made threats against Zafzafi during a live program at Med Radio.
“You are not a representative of the people of Rif. I could come there with my cousins and tear you apart,” said Dribi.
His statements were rejected by supporters of the Hirak who called for Dribi to be prosecuted for incitement to violence. For HACA, what Dribi said was “degrading to human dignity.”
While the individual concerned was not directly mentioned or named, the HACA blames the radio station’s host for not intervening on the spot “in accordance with the obligation to control antenna, which makes the issue of the aforementioned issue in non-compliance with the legal and regulatory provisions in force,” stated the CSCA.
The radio station was ordered to broadcast the warning issued to it in the same program during which the controversial statements were uttered.
The three Moroccan news outlets were not the only ones to step out of line while reporting the Rif protests.
On July 11, the Arabic version of France 24 illustrated the events of Al Hoceima with videos of violent clashes in Venezuela. While the French TV channel apologized for its blunder, blaming a “technical failure,” the Moroccan Ministry of Communication and Culture is currently undertaking the necessary legal consultations to determine whether France 24’s response is sufficient.