Morocco - RWB's recommendations on Morocco's media reform bills

Reporters Without Borders has given the Moroccan communication ministry a memo with its initial recommendations on three media bills that parliament is to begin debating soon. RWB submitted the memo to the communication ministry on 15 November, the second day of a two-day international conference on media freedom that it attended in Rabat. The conference was organized by the Centre for Social Science and Research. The memo welcomes some of the bills’ provisions, especially the proposed abolition of prison sentences for media offences, which is the most significant measure. But it stresses the need to amend the bills to bring them into line with international standards on freedom of information.

The communication ministry unveiled the three bills – on “press and publishing,” the “status of professional journalists” and the “National Press Council” – on 18 October.

Reporters Without Borders hails the fact that the government is finally reforming Morocco’s media legislation, something it promised to do after the constitutional referendum in 2011. RWB has repeatedly stressed the need for legislative reforms that fully guarantee freedom of information.

The provisions on the confidentiality of journalists’ sources and defamation actions also represent a big step forward but they need to be strengthened and made more specific in order to be effective guarantees.

Other provisions need to be thoroughly overhauled so that they do not constitute new obstacles to freedom of information in Morocco, especially the provisions on electronic media, procedures for seizing publications and closing websites.

Finally the long-awaiting reform of the system of “red lines,” forbidding coverage of the monarchy, Islam and territorial issues, has not materialized.

The communication minister said he would be ready to amend certain provisions and to take of account of the observations of the various organizations and participants at the conference.

RWB recommends that the government should: