Sunday, May 13, 2012

The Tussle For Control of Moroccan Media Heats Up

Communications Minister Mustapha El Khalfi, has made the banning of gambling advertisements on television a key theme of his project to reform the audiovisual sector. However, after intervention from HM King Mohammed, the regressive measures are in doubt. The new measures were due to take effect as of May 1 but in light of protests, including from within the government, their implementation has been indefinitely postponed.

Mustapha Khalifi - under fire

Communications Minister Mustapha Khalfi has been under fire for new guidelines for public broadcasters include which also include measures such as mandating the broadcast of the call to prayer five times a day.

In another controversial section the detailed guidelines also call for reducing the amount of French on public television and including programs about youth and social issues that must include a mufti, or Muslim cleric.

"These channels are performing a public service and so they must submit to certain minimum requirements," Khalifi told L'Economiste.

However, as The View From Fez reported earlier, the furor over the guidelines' religious aspects has grown over the last few weeks as the heads of the normally docile public TV stations have publicly criticised the measures as a threat to their independence.

Observers say the controversy is also about a newly elected government attempting to assert itself against the palace that has traditionally controlled the media. Sports Minister Mohamed Ouzzine, who is also head of the board of governors of the Moroccan gaming and sports council, criticised Khalfi's approach, arguing that he is a "minister of communication and not a mufti or a (theologian) who bans and authorises."

The news director for Channel 2M said the guidelines represent "a will to kill the programming on Channel Two. This is not a license agreement. It is a programming list, and logic and our profession says that politics should not dictate TV programing," Samira Sitail told the daily Al-Ahdath Al-Maghrebiya.

The head of public broadcasting, Faisal Laraachi, said: "Our editorial independence is sacred."

Now the broadcasters have received help form Morocco's King Mohammed VI. On Friday the HM King sacked the president of the country's top broadcasting panel, Mohammed Ghazali.

Amina Lamrini El Ouahabi

"Mrs Amina Lamrini El Ouahabi has been named" head of the Superior Council for Audiovisual Communication (CSCA) in place of Mohammed Ghazali, MAP said. The CSCA is a body that forms part of the High Authority for Communications and the Audiovisual sector (HACA).

The new appointment comes amid clashes over the adoption by the HACA on March 31 of new measures which included calling on the two public television stations to broadcast the five Islamic calls to prayer, banning advertising for gambling games, proposing a new schedule for programmes in French and a change of time for the evening news.

Several Moroccan papers on Friday said in editorials that Ghazali was paying for the new measures with his head.


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