June 14, 2017 - Updated on June 15, 2017

RSF deplores Morocco’s suspension of a France 24's program

Reporters Without Borders (RSF) condemns Morocco’s suspension on retransmission of an Arabic-language program of France 24, the French state-owned 24-hour TV news network. The ban has been imposed amid growing Moroccan government concern about media coverage of protests in the northern Rif region.

France 24 in Arabic’s service provider in Morocco received a call from the ministry of communication on 12 June ordering the immediate cessation of all activity by the Paris-based TV channel throughout Morocco on the grounds that it lacked the necessary permits to broadcast.

The complete ban came three days after the ministry withdrew France 24’s authorization to film its monthly current affairs programme “Hadith Al Awassim” (Discussed in the Capital) in Morocco on the grounds of “failure to respect the established procedures.”

The programme is usually recorded in Rabat and is hosted by the journalist Jamal Boudouma, who invites a broad range of personalities to talk about current affairs issues in Morocco.

The suspended edition was to have been about the protests in the Rif and the guests were to have included a mediator in the Rif city of Al Hoceima, a lawyer representing the Al Hirak protest movement, a journalist with the daily Al Massae and a political analyst.

This is the first time that Morocco’s ministry of communication has cited permits and procedures as grounds for preventing France 24 from filming or broadcasting. Sources said the government was just using them as pretexts at a time when it has been accusing France 24 of bias and “lacking neutrality” in its coverage of Morocco and the Rif protests in particular.

“We don’t understand this hostility towards our channel, which is independent and non-governmental.” France 24 editorial director Marc Saikali told RSF. “Saying our coverage of the Rif protests is not neutral is very surprising because we have repeatedly interviewed government representatives. We are going to take the necessary administrative steps and we hope we will not have to pay for being the leading international TV channel in Morocco.”

“We condemn this suspension on an internationally recognized news organization, which does not bode well for the foreign media in Morocco,” said Yasmine Kacha, the head of RSF’s North Africa bureau.

“We urge the Moroccan authorities to quickly clarify the procedure and the criteria for awarding and refusing permits to film and broadcast. We also take advantage of French President Emmanuel Macron’s visit to Morocco today and tomorrow to ask him to raise the issue of the obstacles imposed on French journalists trying to cover Morocco.”

According to RSF’s tally, Morocco expelled five foreign journalists last year. The victims included Luigi Pelazza and Mauro Pilay, two well-known Italian investigative journalists with the programme Le Lene, whose material was confiscated. Algerian journalist Djamel Alilat was deported two weeks ago for covering the Rif protests without a permit.

Morocco is ranked 133rd out of 180 countries in RSF’s 2017 World Press Freedom Index.