“There is a need for a public debate about the national press”

– The extraordinary public support for news organizations in the context of pandemics has been welcomed by many critics. What do you think ?

The support given to the media during the period of the Covid-19 pandemic spread is a good decision because the media is not only a for-profit company, but rather a social need whose purpose is to enrich democratic practices.

State aid is therefore a natural issue. According to international case law on public media support, legal systems governing financial support for the press sector oblige states to ensure the proper use of public funds in a way that guarantees justice and equality, media opportunities and maintains media pluralism and cultural diversity.

This public support, including the publicity provided by public institutions and sectors, must in no way be transformed into a means of controlling the media and influencing their editorial lines or influencing them in favor of one party against another. This means that it is not possible to block ads from a public institution on a newspaper or news site simply because its editorial line is not valued by a responsible person, something that unfortunately happens.

– The Moroccan Forum of Young Journalists (FMJJ) presented a parallel report in the framework of the 4th cycle of the Universal Periodic Review of Morocco. In what context was this report published?

The Action Plan of the Moroccan Forum of Young Journalists (FMJJ) includes a number of axes, namely to contribute to the training of journalists, the monitoring of press freedom violations and the advocacy of a reform of related public policies to the media. In this last part, we intend to work to persuade the various institutions to adopt the proposals and recommendations that we develop on the basis of a reading and careful analysis of the reality of the media in our country.

On the one hand, we hold regular meetings with the government, parliament and national institutions, and on the other hand, we present our findings to the various UN human rights protection mechanisms. It is in this context that the parallel report is coming, as we presented on the occasion of the 4th session of the Universal Periodic Review (UPR) of the Kingdom of Morocco, which was to take place this year.

– What are the recommendations of the report, related to conventional practices of freedom of opinion and expression in Morocco and media law?

– This report is the result of many consultation meetings and interactive workshops organized by the FMJJ in 2020 and 2021. We had listened carefully to all relevant stakeholders and then developed concrete and practical proposals and recommendations.

With regard to treaty practice, the Forum’s shadow report calls on the government to complete the procedure for acceding to the Optional Protocol to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights on Individual Communication and recommends ratification of Convention 190 on Violence and Harassment in the World of Work 2019 in order to protect female journalists.

We also call for national laws to be compatible with international human rights law, in particular the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, so that journalists are no longer prosecuted under criminal law in cases involving the publication and revision of a number of legal texts. The report also contains a number of proposals regarding the protection of journalists’ sources.

We call for a revision of Act No. 90.13 establishing the National Press Council, to allow the Council to have a legal status and financial and administrative independence equivalent to HACAs, to radically revise its composition, to reduce the candidacy conditions for candidates for membership of 15 years to 10 years and to change the method of voting for journalists’ representatives.

With regard to the promotion of press companies, we call for the adoption of strict measures by the government to limit the use of the web giants’ GAFA advertising services by national public institutions and the revision of the criteria for public support for media companies to ensure greater transparency and neutrality.

– What are your recommendations for improving the work of public media institutions?

– I believe that the creation of a public media team provides an opportunity to soon open a public debate, which aims to further stimulate the media to provide a media service that meets the needs of democratic practice, promotes the values ​​of pluralism, and s is open to all social categories. And this in accordance with the laws enshrined in the Moroccan Constitution, with the principles of human rights as recognized in democratic practice and international conventions, and which emphasize that states should not impose monopolistic control over the media and call for appropriate measures to restrict everything, that can damage the diversity of opinions.

I also consider it necessary to interact positively with the observations and recommendations that HACA makes on a regular basis regarding the guarantees of pluralism in the public media. There is a great need for the establishment of a public sector research institution, with the mission of monitoring media issues, training journalists and publishing guides and scientific journals on the situation of the press in Morocco.

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