Concerns over a bill threatening press in Morocco

A draft bill proposed by the Moroccan government has raised deep concerns among many civil organizations. The bill includes measures that could undermine press freedom and self-regulation in the country according to these organizations. The bill aims to increase government control over the National Press Council and media, potentially reversing the progress made in limiting government interference in the media sector.

The establishment of the National Press Council in 2018, under the Press and Publishing Code, was seen as a significant achievement in curbing government control over the media. However, following the expiration of the Council’s mandate in October 2022, new elections were expected to be held.

In an unexpected move, the Moroccan government extended the Council’s mandate for an additional six months on an ‘exceptional and temporary basis,’ citing the unsuitability of the situation for conducting elections (Decree-Law No. 2.22.770).

After an unsuccessful attempt to revise the law on the National Press Council on April 13, 2023, the government approved Bill No. 15.23. This bill seeks to establish a temporary committee to oversee press and publishing affairs, effectively replacing the National Press Council for the next two years. However, the bill still requires approval from parliament, and a review date has not yet been determined.

The signatory organizations raised the issues in a communication and noted that the proposed bill expands the authority of the temporary committee significantly. The organizations fear that the proposed bill could undermine the self-regulatory system established since 2018, which has played a crucial role in preserving journalists’ independence.

Some of the organizations include ARTICLE 19 MENA, Adala “for the right to a fair trial”, Citizen Initiatives Association (bawsala movement), and Rights and Justice Association.