Morocco is defined as a constitutional monarchy. « A sovereign Muslim State » as stated in the Constitution, it is led by King Mohamed VI, who succeeded his father in 1999. The late king Hassan II mostly embodied an authoritarian regime from 1961 to the 1990’s, and started a series of political reforms at the end of his reign, pressure by the international community and the economic and social crisis in Morocco.
The 2000’s opening
In the early 2000, this transitional context between the two kingdoms allowed a new and independent press to flourish. With the support of a strong civil society, it contributed to empower public opinion and provided a real counter-balance to the established authority, promoting social development and democracy.
However, the 2003 Islamist bombing in Casablanca changed the scenery. Considered as a Moroccan 9/11, this attack led the authorities to enhance national security, putting an end to the burgeoning transition to democracy for the sake of the fight against terrorism. From there, an institutionalised and even-toned press is politically and economically promoted, while the struggling independent press financially and politically muzzled.
A great number of pioneering media have been censored or became a target of political trials and the victims of the State propaganda, which claims to defend public order, national stability and the Throne. Critics were forced into exile, newspapers deprived of revenues and thus forced into bankruptcy, journalists driven out of the profession, and newsrooms dispersed. Meanwhile, the audiovisual landscape had become heavily controlled.
The rise of a new nationalism
In the wake of the Arab Spring after 2011, King Mohammed VI took the initiative for a new Constitution to be adopted as a matter of urgency, promising a more equal distribution of powers. The 2011 Constitution was approved by 98,5% of voters and put into effect on July 1st, 2011. After their revolutions, while most other countries of the region drifted towards wars, violence, instability or the strong comeback of authoritarian regimes, Morocco praised its temperance, holding to its more cautious, gradual approach towards political openness and the recognition of human rights.
Since then, while Western powers seem to view Morocco as a stable governance model compared to the failing regional environment, the country strengthened the idea of an « executive monarchy », centralizing powers in the hand of the King and his inner circle of councillors, leaving the legislative and judiciary powers to serve first and foremost as a reflector of the decision taken by the Palace.
Nowadays, the rise of online media platforms allows the heirs of the 2000’s to voice their criticism. But the Internet is also home to a growing digital press that promotes safety, royal technocracy and reject universal values, considered to be exogenous and conflicting with the notions of « Moroccan exception » and « national values ». This press is becoming more and more popular with the massive use of social networks.
- Ahmed Benchemsi in The Guardian (2011) . Morocco's king is destroying hope for democracy. Accessed 7 October 2017.
- CBS News (2011). The world's enduring dictators: Mohammed VI, Morocco. Accessed 7 October 2017.
- Committee to Protect Journalists (2007). The Moroccan Facade. Accessed 7 October 2017.
- Freedom House (2016). Morocco I Freedom of the press 2016. Accessed 7 October 2017.
- Francesco Cavatorta in Instituto Affari Internazionali (2015). Authoritarian Stability through Perpetual Democratisation. Accessed 7 October 2017.
- Francesco Cavatorta in The International Spectator Vol. 51 , Iss. 1 (2016). Morocco: the Promise of Democracy and the Reality of Authoritarianism. Accessed 7 October 2017.