Morocco Culture

Morocco Culture and Mass Media

Newspapers in Morocco

According to CHEEROUTDOOR.COM, Morocco is a country located in Africa. In Morocco there are twelve daily newspapers, of which eight are Arabic and four are French. The largest are Le Matin du Sahara et du Maghreb and al-Ittihad al-Ishtiraki (‘Socialist unity’) in Casablanca and al-Alam (‘the flag’) in Rabat (all about 100,000 copies). Other major magazines are French-speaking L’Opinion (about 60,000 copies) and Maroc Soir (about 50,000 copies). L’Opinion and al-Alam are issued by the party Istiqlal. There is relative freedom of the press, but magazines can be withdrawn due to obnoxious articles in certain areas, eg. Role of Morocco in Western Sahara.

The state-owned company Radiodiffusion Télévision Marocaine (founded in 1928) broadcasts radio in three channels. Arabic, French, Spanish and Berber, and TV since 1962 in Arabic and French. There is a private TV station, 2M International (started 1989), in Casablanca and private radio in Tangier. In the north of Morocco, Spanish radio and TV can be received. There are 243 radio and 166 TV receivers per 1,000 residents (2000).


According to ALLUNITCONVERTERS, with an almost unbroken history as an independent nation since the 7th century, the Moroccans have a very rich and mixed cultural heritage, with influence from mainly Arab but also Berber, Andalusian, Jewish, French and West African sources.

For example, some Moroccan music has preserved traditions from the Middle Ages Muslim Andalusia and shares origins with Flamencon. There are also genres that have emerged from Sufis religious ceremonies, such as the Gnawa music with roots in sub-Saharan Africa, which in 2019 was granted World Heritage status by the UN organization Unesco. At parties, weddings and other gatherings, music, song and dance are often performed where guests participate. Modern Moroccan music is often inspired by older traditions, but it also draws influences from the United States, Europe and other popular world music. In recent years, modern Western music genres such as rock and hip hop have begun to gain entry into Moroccan music, sometimes merging with more traditional forms.

The tradition of oral storytelling and poetry is kept alive.

Relatively few novels are written and published in Morocco in Arabic, and book reading is low. Among the modern writers are Mohammed Chukri, whose autobiographical novel The Naked Bread has long been banned. Relatively many Moroccan writers write in French. Best known is Tahar Ben Jelloun, whose novels The Sandbar, The Twenty-seventh Night, and others, have been appreciated even in Europe. Many writers, such as Mohammed Khair-Eddine, have written about the country’s identity problems after independence. Sociologist and feminist Fatima Mernissi has won international reputation for her work on the position of women in Islam. Morocco has also inspired many foreign writers and artists over the years, such as the American Paul Bowles, who lived and wrote in Tangier.

In recent years, the magnificent desert areas around Ouarzazate have offered recording venues for Hollywood films and TV shows. Fort Aït Ben Haddou at the foot of the Atlas Mountains, a World Heritage site as an example of southern Morocco’s traditional architecture, is featured in Game of Thrones and Gladiator. There has been an international film festival in Marrakech since 2000, and the domestic film art seems to be growing.

Volubilis, a place of Roman ruins, has become a growing tourist destination in recent years. The ruin town in Arabic is known as Oualili and is on the UN World Heritage List, where the old neighborhoods of the cities of Fès, Meknès and Marrakech are also listed. Since 2013, extensive renovation work has taken place in Fès, which is famous for a library of more than a thousand years.

Morocco’s Jewish cultural heritage is attracting increasing attention, with several museums in cities also being well-visited tourist destinations (see Calendar).



Prison for Majestic Crime

December 26

Mohamed Sekkaki, who publishes himself via YouTube, is sentenced to four years in prison for a video criticizing the country’s king, which according to Moroccan law is considered a majestic offense. Sekkaki, also known as “Mosul Kaskita”, often reaches over 100,000 viewers with his videos.

Two legal cases following the death penalty against a student

December 17

A Tetouan court in northern Morocco sentenced nine people smugglers (seven Moroccans and two Spaniards) to a sentence of between four and ten years in prison. The nine were involved in an incident when 22-year-old law student Hayat Belkacem from Tetouan lost his life (see September 25, 2018). She was shot to death by the Moroccan fleet on a cruise at sea in a fast-moving inflatable boat of a type sometimes used by drug smugglers. The shooting death attracted attention and indignation among Moroccans, who were touched by the fact that the 22-year-old was trying to get to Europe to help his family. The relatives have brought an action against the state in a district court in Rabat.


Rappers sentenced to prison

November 25

A rapper known as Gnawi is sentenced to one year in prison and fined, formally for offending the police via social media. His popular song entitled “Living the People” is about injustice and the text moves close to a “red line” by pronouncing attacking the king of Morocco.

The prison chief is kicked after torture charges

November 1st

The head of a prison in Fès gets fired after an imprisoned protest leader manages to perform a recording in which he claims to have been tortured and raped. Nasser Zefzafi was arrested in 2017 and sentenced to 20 years in prison. He and three other leaders of the Hirak movement have been sentenced to long sentences on charges of endangering state security. They were arrested following demonstrations in the Rif region and human rights organizations believe that they have not received fair trials (see December 2016 and 20 July 2017).


Stronger penalty for editor

October 26th

The sentence for newspaper editor Taoufik Bouachrine is increased from 12 to 15 years in prison. He denies the crimes the regime is accusing him of, including rape and human trafficking (see February 26, 2019).

The government is shrinking, regions are getting a stronger voice

October 9

Ministers on key positions are allowed to remain as the government is reformed and shrinks from 39 to 24 portfolios. But judges interpret the changes being made as the king wants to see measures to reduce the risk of new protest waves against high living costs and unemployment. Following the repeated protests that raged in the Rif, demonstrations have also taken place in several cities. A key part of the plans is that the regions will have more to say about, when it comes to the needs of different countries.


Indignation against prison sentences for abortion

September 30th

A 28-year-old journalist is sentenced to one year in prison on charges of having sex outside of marriage and performing an illegal abortion. Her hubby and a gynecologist are also sentenced to prison sentences. M governm ents says it has spotted the clinic in Rabat because it has been suspected that illegal abortions are performed there. Activists claim that the woman was prosecuted for wanting to stop her journalism work at Akhbar al- Yawm (“Today’s News”). The convict, who has brought indignation, is appealed. On September 23, several hundred women have published a manifesto in Moroccan media stating that they have violated “the country’s age-old laws and norms”. The folk storm leads to a decision by the king on October 16: the woman, hubby and gynecologist avoid punishment.

TV show stopped after joke about wife abuse

September 18

A show on the TV channel Chada has been set for three weeks since a celebrity guest in the program shouted in front of the audience that he was beating his wife. The statement by singer Adil El Miloudi that this is what a real man does was met by the pleasures of the host Imad Kotbi and another guest, which prompted the Haca investigating authority to act.


Jubilant King gives thousands of graces

July 30

Mohammed VI celebrates 20 years on the throne. In connection with the anniversary, the king pardons 4,764 people. Among those escaping from prison are only eight from the protest movement Hirak who participated in demonstrations in the Rifbergen 2016 (and none of these should have had leadership roles). About 400 people are believed to have been arrested during the wave of protests in Rif, of which about 250 have been pardoned in the period leading up to the King’s anniversary, but details are uncertain.

Death penalty for tourist murder

July 18

Three men are sentenced to death for the murder of Danish and one Norwegian woman at the end of 2018 (see December 2018). The men say they are supporters of the Islamic State (IS). However, IS has said that it is not behind the deed. The death penalty is set in higher court for all three in October, while a fourth man gets his sentence at life imprisonment sharpened: he too is sentenced to death. The death penalty is sometimes punished in Morocco for particularly serious crimes but no execution has been carried out since 1993.


Religion on retreat in North Africa

June 24th

An increasing number of Arabs describe themselves as non-religious, according to an interview survey conducted for BBC 2018–2019 by the Arab Barometer research network, which is based at Princeton University. More than 25,000 interviewees in ten countries and in the Palestinian territories were asked. On average, the proportion of non-religious has increased from 8 to 13 percent. Compared to 2013, it is mainly in North Africa – in all the countries of the Mediterranean – that religious beliefs have weakened.

Berber as the official language is confirmed

June 10th

Parliament adopts a new law that confirms the status of the Barbican as an official language with the Arabic. In practice, recognition came in 2011, through a new constitution.


The king is awakened to a peace plan

May 29th

King of Morocco receives Jared Kushner, son-in-law of US President. Kushner is preparing a peace plan for the Middle East, to be presented in Bahrain in June. The basic idea is that Palestinians should be financially compensated if they accept certain political proposals. Exactly how the United States wants to involve Morocco in the plan is not yet clear and the Islamic cooperation organization OIC, which includes Morocco, condemns a few days later the US decision to recognize Israel’s supremacy over Jerusalem. The visit to Morocco is also linked to the fact that the US is in conflict with Iran and is seeking support from Arab countries.


Wide settlement between unions and employers

April 25

The employers’ organization CGEM and the three largest trade unions UMT, UGTM and UNMT have concluded an agreement that will give many employees increased wages, according to the government. The minimum wage will be raised – starting in July, it will rise ten percent in the two-year term – but not for agricultural employees. The state support for families is increased. A national organization, CDT, stands outside the settlement, which has been preceded by a long period of repeated protests against the cost of living rising. The minimum wage is currently 2,570 dirhams a month, corresponding to approximately SEK 2,700. The agreement is made public on the same day that police use water cannons to disperse teachers who demonstrate against their short-term contracts.

The celebrity rabbi will lead Morocco’s Jews

April 14

For the first time in about a hundred years, there is a chief rabbi as leader of the approximately 2,500 Jews in Morocco. Yoshiahu Pinto was inaugurated at a ceremony in Casablanca. He will work with the king’s approval – Morocco’s current king has been involved in the country’s Jewish heritage and, among other things, has restored synagogues. Pinto, who is known by the Israeli media as a celebrity robber, is convicted of bribing a police chief in Israel and moved to Morocco in 2017, after serving a prison sentence. He has gained the epithet celebrity robbery through his focus on Kabbalah, Jewish mysticism, which in recent years has attracted followers, among others in Hollywood.

Imprisonment for Reef protests is confirmed

April 6

An appeal court in Casablanca sets the judgments against activists who participated in the al-Hirak al-Shaabi protest movement in 2016 and 2017. A total of 42 people are sentenced and the sentence for the leadership figures is up to 20 years in prison. Demonstrators in the Rif, who largely have a Berber population, demanded, among other things, efforts to reduce unemployment in the region; the state authorities have argued that the protests were also about separatism. Some protesters have previously been pardoned by the king.


Christian appeal before Pope’s visit

March 31st

Pope Francis is visiting. In Rabat, he is holding a mass on a sports arena, and in the city’s cathedral he is urging Christians not to try to convert people of other faiths – Christian mission raises concern in Muslim countries. In a statement before the visit, Morocco’s Catholic minority has urged authorities to allow Christians to fully practice their religion. In particular, they want guarantees for Muslims who convert to Christianity. The majority of nearly 40,000 Christians who are believed to be living in Morocco come from other countries.

Morocco buys fighter aircraft

March 25th

The US government has given the go-ahead to sell 25 new F-16s to Morocco. At the same time, 23 F-16 of the older model that Morocco’s Air Force has already upgraded. More than 3,000 planes of this type are in use in 25 countries. The US Congress has the opportunity to stop the business, which together is worth nearly $ 4 billion, if it happens within a month. In 2008, Morocco ordered 24 planes; one was lost in 2015 in battle for the Saudi-led alliance fighting a rebel movement in Yemen.

Water cannons against teacher protest

24th of March

Several thousand teachers are demonstrating in Rabat for better working conditions, especially for fixed services and pensions. Just a few hours earlier, riot police with water cannons have been deployed to break up a sitting strike at Parliament, where about 15,000 teachers have spent the night. A very large proportion of the teachers who enter into short-term contracts are young. In recent weeks, they have carried out actions in several cities.

Slow in Western Sahara talks

March 22

A new round of conversation about Western Sahara concludes with the finding that the parties are far apart. Foreign ministers from Morocco, Algeria and Mauritania and the Saharan Liberation Movement Polisario’s negotiating head have only agreed after the two-day meeting that the UN-led talks – which resumed in December after six years fully on ice – should continue “before the summer”. The Polisario continues to demand that the Western Sahara be given a referendum. Morocco says no.

Big dark numbers in migrant traffic

March 15th

A migrant ship on its way to Spain is sinking in the Mediterranean. According to information to the organization Caminando Fronteras, based in Tangier, 45 people are killed. 21 are rescued by the Moroccan fleet. Individual organizations claim that it is often difficult to get information from authorities on how many people are drowned. In January, Caminando Fronteras reported that 50 migrants from Mauritania were killed off the coast. According to the EU, more than 65,000 migrants took over from Morocco in 2018. In the same year, IOM counted more than 2,200 who lost their lives. Morocco states that almost 90,000 were prevented from making the trip and nearly 30,000 were rescued at sea.


Judgment against newspaper publishers is questioned

February 26th

Moroccan Amnesty calls on the authorities to release a newspaper publisher who is jailed. Taoufik Bouachrine, who publishes Akhbar al-Yawm (“Today’s News”), was arrested in February 2018 and convicted in November on charges of human trafficking and rape. Video films have been confiscated by him, but since he has repeatedly challenged the authorities on freedom of the press, the evidence is questioned. The newspaper Akhbar al-Yawm has previously published regime-critical articles and jokes, sometimes with the royal house as a target.

Western Saharan disappointment over fisheries agreement with the EU

February 12

The European Parliament approves a new four-year fisheries agreement with Morocco, which also covers the waters off occupied Western Sahara. The agreement, which replaces an agreement that expired in July, is adopted with 415 votes in favor, 189 against and 49 abstentions. The Liberation Front Polisario responds with disappointment, describing the fisheries agreement as an obstacle to the peace process the UN runs. EU member states must also approve the fisheries agreement for it to take effect.


EU yes to controversial agreement

January 16

The European Parliament is voting for a new trade agreement with Morocco on agricultural products, although there is criticism that the agreement will also cover goods from Western Sahara, which is occupied by Morocco. An extension of fisheries agreements, at least as contentious, is pending in the European Parliament.

Morocco Culture

About the author