Although Morocco has a population of more than 35 million, only 120,000 copies of newspapers are sold daily.
Rabat – The decline in newspaper sales in Morocco is “shocking,” said prominent media figure Mohamed Berrada on Tuesday, November 12. Berrada, the founder of publishing and distribution company Sapress, spoke at a forum celebrating the 60th anniversary of the state-owned media outlet Maghreb Arab Press (MAP).
From the “golden days” of Moroccan national newspapers in the 1980s and 90s, Berrada noted that the number of newspaper copies sold per day has fallen from 500,000 to only 120,000 today in a country of more than 35 million.
The media figure remarked on how people today want their news quickly and are drawn to pictures and videos. At the same time, people are less likely to search out details in the news to understand the full story.
Berrada also lamented the proliferation of online news outlets in Morocco, currently standing at 400 electronic newspapers. The growth in online news “drives the reader away from the paper press and, as a result, precipitates its decline.”
Traditional media outlets in Morocco have a “fragile economic model” unhealthily focused on advertising, Berrada said.
Berrada has been a major figure in Moroccan journalism since the 1970s, when he published “Correspondence of the Press” and founded Sapress. He also received Morocco’s first National Press Grand Prize in 2003.
The experienced journalist called for newspapers to restructure their companies to have a “clear vision” for how they need to modernize. National newspapers in Morocco also do not do enough to keep distribution figures up to par, Berrada suggested. He complained that distribution figures do not match the progress in Morocco’s development or the “ambitions” of publishers.
In the context of internet media’s undeniable potential, Berrada did praise national newspapers for playing an “honorable” role in defending Morocco’s best interests despite limited funding.
Along with the funding and sustainability challenges that the Moroccan press is dealing with, the press freedom organization Reporters Without Borders (RSF), painted a picture of difficult conditions in Morocco. For 2019, RSF ranked Morocco as 135th out of 180 countries for press freedom. RSF notes that a number of journalists have experienced “judicial harassment,” and the government has expelled several foreign reporters.