News that the Moroccan Federation of Newspaper Editors (FMEJ) have called for the banning the free reading of newspapers in public spaces has been greeted with a mixture of derision and disbelief
What worries this very small group of editors is the fact that Moroccans share their newspapers. The FMEJ had previously presented a report to Mustapha El Khalfi, Morocco’s Minister of Communication, on the print media in Morocco. The media “has lost approximately $150 million per year due to the population’s access to newspapers that are left behind in public places,” the report said.
Even more astonishing than the Kafkaesque idea of banning reading a discarded newspaper in a coffee shop, is the fact that the Minister appears to have taken this surreal suggestion seriously. After a meeting with the FMEJ on May 24 the Ministry decided to ban the free reading of newspapers in public spaces.
“Newspaper editors are undergoing a crisis and we need to limit the damage. According to the FMEJ report, each newspaper copy is read by an average of five people,” Minister El Khalfi said in an interview with Huffington Post Maghreb.
Moroccans were gobsmacked and reaction on social media has been universally condemning of the idea. Many focused on the impossibility of enforcement.
"Will this mean creating a special uniformed Newspaper Police to arrest, detain 'illegal' readers and seize the offending newspapers - perhaps to be burned in the public square?"
Bringing a dose of reality to the debate the international auditing company KPMG reports that, “readers of written press constitute merely 1 percent of the Moroccan population.” This translates to no more than roughly 330,000 Moroccans out of a total population of about 33 million.
KPMG also explained that the problem is rooted in “various socio-economical factors including Morocco’s low literacy rate and the low and ineffective distribution of newspapers.”
According to a report carried by Morocco World News, the editors are asking for more money for carrying government advertising and for inclusion in negotiations scheduled with Google and Facebook concerning the alleged unfair position of the Moroccan online press in terms of online advertisements.