It has been a long time coming but finally on Wednesday Morocco launched the first Amazigh TV channel.
There has been radio coverage for Amazigh speakers for some time, with RTM Chaîne Amazigh catering for Tachelhit, Tamazight and Tarifit speakers. These are all derivations of the Berber language. Tachelhit is spoken in south-west Morocco, in an area between Sidi Ifni in the south,Agadir in the north and Marrakech and the Draa/Sous valleys in the east. Tamazight is spoken in the Middle Atlas, between Taza, Khemisset, Azilal and Errachidia. Tarifit (or Rifia) is spoken in the Rifarea of northern Morocco. A small number of programmes are broadcast in Hassaniya, which is widely spoken in Western Sahara.
As we reported two years ago, the road to Amazigh tv has been a rocky one
There are an estimated 23 million Amazigh, the majority of whom are Sunni Muslim . The largest populations are in Morocco and Algeria, in addition to smaller numbers in Tunisia, Libya and Egypt. The Amazigh have been living in North Africa for nearly 4,000 years. Some 75 percent of the Moroccan population is Amazigh who say their language and culture are not properly acknowledged by the authorities and this has caused friction with the Moroccan government.
They were named Berber by the Arab invaders, but this is perceived as a derogatory term.
Back in 2008 a joint statement from several rights organizations said they were protesting against what they called a perpetual policy of discrimination and marginalization from the government. According to the statement, “Officials are insisting on not fulfilling their obligations as far as the existing television station programming is concerned.”
Morocco’s Ministry of Communication promised that an Amazigh television channel could be set up during 2007 but several obstacles have prevented this plan from being realized. Moroccan authorities say the money allocated for this purpose, some 160 million dirhams ($21 million) is not enough to establish a professional high-quality channel.
Officials, they say, maintain the programming is of low quality, that there is a shortage of journalistic staff and that there is no agreement on the language that will be applied in this programming. The Amazigh say all these reasons are baseless.
Now it is a reality and we await a reaction from those who have struggled so long to make it happen. The Amazigh TV will air for six hours each day during the week and ten hours on the week-ends.