The Moroccan press has developed to become one of the freest in the Arab world. Most of the independent newspapers emerged in the final years of the autocratic rule of King Hassan II at the end of the 1990s, when a new and relatively liberal press legislation was passed. These papers have succeeded in breaking many taboos, such as the confrontation between the monarchy and the left in the 1970s, cases of corruption implicating political personalities close to the Royal Palace as well as the stigma that surrounds homosexuality in the Arab world. The most notable development has been the emergence of satire and caricature in the print media as a way of criticizing the government and even the King, on whom the constitution bestows a sacral status.
The Moroccan authorities have reacted in various ways to curtail this outspokenness. At times, they have used direct censorship through simply banning publications. Other times, indirect pressure has been used to warn off advertisers and printers from cooperating with the frown-upon newspapers. In special cases, the authorities have resorted to strict legislation protecting the monarchy and the national integrity of the Moroccan territory in order to silence outspoken journalists such as Ali Lmrabet, the editor-in-chief of Demain Magazine who received a heavy prison sentence in 2003 for his newspaper’s coverage of the King and the Saharan conflict. These strategies show the continuing limits on press freedom in Morocco. During the past two years, five independent newspapers or their staff have been convicted on criminal charges of libel, publishing “false news”, insulting a foreign head of state or most seriously for undermining the institution of the monarchy.
Newspapers in Morocco suffer from a fairly limited readership. In Morocco, which has 33,8 million inhabitants, all print media combined sell 350,000 copies/day, compared with 1,3 million copies in neighboring Algeria, which has 33,3 million inhabitants. Unlike other Arab countries where information on newspaper circulation remain rather embellished estimations, Morocco is the only Arab country to have an Audit Bureau of Circulation, a tripartite organization which brings together publishers, advertisers and advertising agencies in the country with the aim to audit circulation, readership and audience information.
Did You Know?
During the reign of King Hassan II, a system of subsidies was established to support the newspapers of the legal political parties represented in parliament. Surprisingly, these subsidies were later extended to some of the newer, independent newspapers such as Al Ahdate Al Maghribia. Most Moroccan newspapers run on a system of credit allocated by national banks to cover their budget deficiencies, as the revenues from sale and advertisements often fails to cover the cost of publication.
Language: Arabic Established: 1998 Published daily
A left-leaning independent newspaper close to the Union Socialiste des forces Populaires, the party of former Prime Minister al Youssoufi, Al Ahdath al Maghribia is also known to have good relations with parts of the security apparatus in Morocco. Its editorial line is combatively anti-Islamist. Al Ahdath al Maghribia combines almost tabloid coverage of scandalous incidents such as sex, violence and public mismanagement with partisan nationalist news analysis. Its website is of high quality.
Language: Arabic Established: 1946 Published daily
The official organ of the Istiqlal Party, once the leading nationalist party in Morocco, Al Alam gives a large space to social news and moral issues, such as pre-martial sexual affairs, the high rate of divorces in Morocco and rampant materialism. While Al Alam keeps its reverential tone vis-à-vis the King, its has shown an increasing will to open its opinion pages to criticism of the business and financial interest groups which enjoy the protection of the Royal Palace.
Language: Arabic Established: 1971 Published daily
The official newspaper of the Parti du progrès et du socialisme, the former Communist Party, Al Bayane Alyaoume is very critical towards the government. The newspaper sets a special focus on social affairs and the protest movements of the unions and the leftist parties.
Language: Arabic Established: 1983 Published daily
The official newspaper of the Union Socialiste des Forces Populaires, the party of former socialist Prime Minister Al Youssoufi, Al Ittihad Al Ichtiraki provides an extensive coverage of social issues and the activities of the union. The readers' responses occupy a prominent space on its website.
Language: Arabic Established: 2006 Published daily
A leading independent newspaper, Al Massae has achieved a phenomenal success in a record time by becoming not only one of the most widely circulated newspapers in Morocco, but also the most talked about daily. Al Massae provides an unabashedly critical coverage of national political affairs. Its pages are filled with reporting on the ruling elite, rallying against the corruption of high profile politicians and business tycoons in a simple language often using colloquial Moroccan instead of the more stuffy classical Arabic. The success of Al Massae, however, is mostly due to its editor-in-chief Rachid Nini, a former poet. Nini writes maybe the most read daily editorial "shouf ma tshouf", (freely translated from colloquial Moroccan: "Look and Do not Look"). Through a mixture of populist and critical editorials, Nini has given Al Massae a high - and controversial - profile, as many newspapers and opinion makers have questioned the apparently political backing which protects him from repercussions of his unusually outspoken criticism of highly placed personalities. Among its contributors, Al Massae has high profiles authors, such as the award-winning Tahar Benjelloun.
Language: French Established: 2001 Published daily
An independent, pro-monarchist newspaper, which provides comprehensive news coverage of the national political scene, Aujourd'hui le Maroc has a special focus on issues relating to France and the wider Maghreb. In contrast to a more traditional news-coverage, the controversial editor-in-chief Khalil Hachimi Idrissi lambastes in his daily column, "Petit bonjour", the enemies of Morocco, such as Algeria, the Islamists and all those who dare, even by allusions, question the sanctity of the King. Aujourd'hui le Maroc is printed in a tabloid format.
Morocco's leading independent daily, L'Economiste has no affiliations to a political party or the government. Its editor-in-chief Nadia Salah has created a renowned success by securing both the editorial and economic independence of the paper. 90 percent of its income comes from advertising. The articles in L'Economiste are written in impeccable French.
Language: French Established: 1999 Published weekly
An independent business weekly, La Vie Economique provides a good coverage of the Moroccan economy. Its editorials, especially those written by Morocco's youngest editor-in-chief, the 30-year-old Fadel Agoumi, often take to tasks the shortcomings and mismanagements of the government and its officials.
Language: French Established|:2000 Published weekly
The leading independent newspaper in French, Le Journal Hebdomadaire provides critical and provocative journalism that has expanded the limits of press freedom in Morocco even in relation to the long established taboo of what one can write about the King and the Royal Palace. Le Journal Hebdomadaire mainly deals with political and social issues relevant to the vibrant urban middle class. It treats issues such as the constitutional monarchy, internal immigration, urban development, women's rights and Islamic Sharia with great depth. Its predecessor, Le Journal - established in 1997 and suspended in 2000 - was the first newspaper to raise the traumatic history of Morocco during the autocratic rule of King Hassan II. Le Journal opened its pages to the first articles about the thousands of Moroccans who disappeared, were tortured or forced into exile. Le Journal Hebdomadaire is now facing serious financial difficulties as a consequence of its critical journalism. The royalist business community has ceased to place their advertisements on its pages, while court proceedings have forced its editor-in-chief Aboubakr Jamaï to leave the newspaper.
Language: French Established: 1972 Published daily
The official newspaper of the Moroccan monarchy, the Casablanca-based Le Matin du Sahara et du Maghreb provides an extensive coverage of the activities, initiatives and opinions of the ruling King, Mohammed VI.
Language: Arabic Established: 2006 Published weekly
An independent satirical weekly, Nichane, which means direct in Moroccan Arabic, was suspended in December 2006 because of an issue containing jokes relating to the Royal Family and to Islam. It resumed publication in March 2007. Nichane uses the so-called al-lugha al-darija, the popular Moroccan Arabic dialect, making it more accessible to the man of the street. It is a sister publication of the French-language TelQuel magazine.
Language: French Established: 2001 Published weekly
A leading independent weekly, TelQuel (As It Is) lives up to its name and provides courageous criticism and irreverent satire of the government and to a certain degree the Royal Palace. TelQuel is the only Moroccan paper that in a serious manner has raised the question of homosexuality, the most controversial and stigmatized issue in modern Arab culture. This irreverence has on several occasions caused TelQuel heavy financial pressure and its staff has received suspended prison sentences.