Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Morocco Times closes down

"There is a huge need for an English news source from Morocco, but mostly, there is a need for an international knowledge of Morocco" - Othman El Oumeir, president of Group Maroc Soir

However, readers who logged on to the Morocco Times website today were greeted with a single page statement confirming what many had suspected - the online journal has closed down. No explanation has been given for the closure.

On October 3rd they published for the last time and then - nothing. It is a loss for media diversity in Morocco especially as there are so few English language sources for news and views. It is also a loss for the English speaking tourists who have used the Morocco Times as a window into Moroccan news and culture.

The Morocco Times news website was only a couple of weeks away from celebrating its second anniversary. The first Moroccan English-language electronic paper was inaugurated on Nov.22, 2004 and according to Othman El Oumeir, president of Group Maroc Soir "Morocco Times was designed to be an open space, defending the values of democracy, modernity and freedom."” Maroc Soir is the leading press group in Morocco, which publishes Le Matin (French), Assahra al-Maghribia (Arabic), La Manana (Spanish), and Maroc Soir (French).

"This site is open to different viewpoints and addresses all aspects of Moroccan daily life from politics and economy to culture and society," said Othman El Oumeir, on the journal's first anniversary back in 2005. "There was a huge need for an English news source from Morocco, but mostly, there was a need for an international knowledge of Morocco," he said, adding that Morocco Times came to fill this gap.

The Morocco Times team
Karima Rhanem, Susan Searight, Fahd Chafik, Morad Aziz, Kaoutar Tbatou, Bachir Niah, and Oumnia Guedda

"The local newspaper with a global perspective."

Based in Casablanca, the website's motto was "The local newspaper with a global perspective,"” and for almost two years was updated daily providing balanced news coverage of Morocco and the Maghreb region. It also covered international news and provided a Moroccan angle to the world's events and issues. Successfully meeting those priorities was the primary goal of Morocco Times young staff, whose background - in addition to journalism - included communication studies, archaeology, translation, finance, literature, religion and cultural studies.

A staff meeting in happier times

Although only having a small team, the Morocco Times staff have been present at major Moroccan events as well as international events held in Morocco. The editorial comment, cartoons and special reports will be missed by those who follow events in Morocco.

Mohammed Nabil Benabdallah, Minister of Communication and Spokesperson of the Government, who inaugurated the paper's launch is on the record as saying that "The Morocco Times is indeed a very important initiative since we are talking about e-journalism, something that we definitely still need in our country. This website opens up a new window of information to Morocco. What is special about Morocco Times is that it is a Moroccan English-language website. It goes without saying that English is the most shared and widespread language in the world, and I believe Morocco Times is strongly contributing to the new and modern communication policy we attempt to establish in the country."

We can only hope that either the government or private enterprise will realise that the need for English language news and views is even stronger now than it was when the journal was started. In the future that need will grow further. See our follow up story: The need for an English language portal for Morocco

The View from Fez wishes the former staff members of Morocco Times all the best in the future.



Cat in Rabat said...

This is sooooooooooooo sad!

Anonymous said...

This is a great loss to the tourism sector.

reggae_heat said...

This is a great loss to the tourism sector.

Jon said...

Ah! But we still have The View from Fez!

Sad to see the Morocco Times close but hopefully the staff will get new jobs.