The article below is published with the permission of its author Olaug Holmøy, of Amnesty International, Norway. It was written for an academic assignment as part of her studies in International Development at the University of East Anglia.
The link to Rupert Murdoch’s media empire, suggested by the alternate title is mine. More on the rationale for linking Murdoch and Morocco’s monarch managed media will follow.
I have edited the syntax (not the semantics) of Holmøy’s article very slightly, because of linguistic challenges affecting her writing.
According to Reporters Without Borders (RWB) overview the Kingdom of Morocco is ranked at the 131st place for press freedom, just above Palestine.
The authorities in the country are threatening journalists, citizen-journalists and also foreign media with surveillance, heavy fines and imprisonment.
Sensitive subjects such as Islam, the monarchy or Western Sahara are areas the authorities don’t want the media to be snooping in, and will therefore do everything within their power to prevent it from happening.
A group of journalists’ wanted to give training to citizen journalist via an App in Morocco.
Free Press Unlimited (FPU), Small World News and The Guardian Project developed the secure storytelling app called StoryMaker.
This app would provide the citizen journalist of Morocco with the opportunity to publish content and they could have been anonymous while doing so.
The StoryMaker app could be a great chance for the Moroccan people to share things about their country, reveal situations about their society and the government. It is regarding this last point that things gets tricky.
According to an article by Amnesty International from 2016 the authorities believe that grassroots journalism, like StoryMaker, can destabilize the peoples trust in their institutions.
Who’s to say the Moroccan people should trust their institutions?
After shutting down an opportunity to spread information about their situation, it does not seem reasonable to trust ‘them’.
Because of this initiative seven journalists faced trial, and some of them could get up to five years in prison.
Another example as to how the authorities work is the amendments to the criminal code.
RWB means it clearly was designed to restrict journalists’ right to information.
Journalists’ without information is no journalist at all.
According to Rethinking Media Development countries needs rules to make sure that all citizens have access to information in order to foster a media that serves the interests of society.
The World Bank have studies showing that a country with high level of press freedom is also a country with higher control of corruption (Wolfensohn, 1999).
This assertion can naturally be reversed, meaning that a country where journalists are imprisoned for taking advantage of their human right, that is freedom of expression, there is most likely corruption within the country.
It is extremely suspicious when journalists get imprisoned when wanting to write about the monarchy.
By doing so it just makes it clearer that they are closing in on a touchy subject.
Personally I am very grateful to organizations like Amnesty for pushing where it hurts and actually demanding change in countries like Morocco.
Thus having huge international organizations coming in to a country and demanding change can be tricky as well.
It can be seen as quite invasive when Amnesty and also The Guardian Project point fingers on how countries in the global south run their society.
Then again, freedom of expression is a human right, and that is in fact universal for all humans.
When foreign media wanted to cover the situation on Western Sahara, the Moroccan authorities stole the material.
They say this decision was made because the foreign media had not asked for permission before starting the story.
Still, I truly doubt the situation would have been any different if they had asked in advance.
So the Moroccan institutions should be trusted, but the people should not ask questions, and do not have access to information about their institutions such as the monarchy or the government.
Using new methods in media, such as StoryMaker is just down instantly.
Then again a platform for anonymous publishing could be misused, and people could in fact write articles to mobilize groups that are not beneficial for the country.
But as this blog states earlier; higher level of press freedom = higher control on corruption. And that can only be good, can it not?
Amnesty International (2016). Morocco: Journalists risk imprisonment for running smartphone app training. [online] Available at: https://www.amnesty.org/en/latest/news/2016/06/morocco-journalists-risk-imprisonment-for-running-smartphone-app-training/ [Accessed 19.10.16]
Amnesty International (2016). Morocco ramps up crackdown on press freedom with trial over citizen journalism. [online] Available at: https://www.amnesty.org/en/latest/news/2016/01/morocco-ramps-up-crackdown-on-press-freedom-with-trial-over-citizen-journalism/ [Accessed 19.10.16]
Equality and Human Rights Commission (2016). Article 10: Freedom of expression. [online] Available: https://www.equalityhumanrights.com/en/human-rights-act/article-10-freedom-expression [Accessed 19.10.16]
Reporters Without Borders (2016). Morocco. [online] Available at: https://rsf.org/en/morocco [Accessed 19.10.16]
Wolfensohn, James D., (1999). Voices of The Poor. [online] Available at: http://chora.virtualave.net/voicesofthepoor.htm [Accessed 19.10.16]
Author, name, (year). Rethinking Media Development. [online] Available at:
https://learn.uea.ac.uk/bbcswebdav/pid-1716876-dt-content-rid-2401915_1/courses/DEV-5015A-16-SEM1-A/Rethinking%20media%20development.pdf [Accessed 23.10.16]
https://az734552.vo.msecnd.net/cache/5/c/a/2/b/a/5ca2ba268e380b283938e612d33395b926865f5b.jpg (Photo: ©AP/Press Association Images) [Accessed 19.10.16]