Nichane Reloaded

Morocco is Definitely Backtracking!

If you ask publicly a fortune teller in Marrakesh mythic place, “JamaL’fna,” about the future and present of his country, his answer would much probably be: “Everything is good and well under the reign of Sidna (our Lord the King).” Later in the same day if you meet the same fellow, and if he trusts you enough, he would most certainly confess how life is getting tougher and how the future seems bleak. That’s the way it goes in the north-African Kingdom of Morocco: People wouldn’t acknowledge their plight in public; they are still very reluctant to discuss politics with strangers or people they don’t trust. A bad reflex of the past? I’m not sure it’s a thing of the past. People are probably right to be cautious and the recent State behavior to quash freedom of speech proves their caution to be right.
Once again a magazine has been blocked from circulation. Once again the Makhzen decides what should Moroccans read, hear or say, and once again the culprit is one of the two finest titles of Moroccan press: Nichane. The same magazine that has been punished some months ago for having reproduced popular jokes, is in the dock again.

It all started when Ahmed Reda Benchemsi published a courageous editorial criticizing the recent speech of Mohamed VI. In his annual discourse to the nation, the Monarch made it clear that he is the unchallengeable head of the state, adding that “The essence of elections does not consist in confrontation over the grand objectives of the nation, since these are a question of national consensus… and we will be the guarantor of their continuity even if conditions change, because that is how we see the national monarchy.”(Translated by eatbees).

You don’t have to be a brain surgeon to understand that the Moroccan King is here reminding those who may have forgotten that Morocco is an absolute monarchy, that he and the Makhzen are still in charge as in the good old days. Benchemsi’s editorial merely echoed what the crushing majority of Moroccans (especially the young) are craving for: COMPLETE AND GENUINE DEMOCRACY.

As reported by eatbees, The Nichane issue was confiscated by the authorities as soon as it reached the stands, but not before some avid Nichane readers got hold of it. TelQuel, the sister-publication of Nichane, directed by the same Reda Benchemsi, was also seized before it left the presses.

This move by the NeoMakhzen shows its extreme sensitivity, utter stupidity, lack of touch with the fundamental changes shaking the Moroccan society and the futility of trying to muzzle the press in this day and age.

Since his enthronisation, the new King and his lieutenants have been proclaiming their attachment to the values of democracy. Phrases like “Human Rights,” “Righteous State,” “Freedom of Expression”… have been repeated ad-nauseum to the point that those values have been completely emptied from their meaning and have become jargon words.

All this happens amidst another electoral masquerade. The sort of parody of democracy that Moroccans are fed up with. And the King’s speech only confirms the pointlessness of the whole process. It’s helplessly laughable to see all those political parties’ representatives (all those nuts) -most of whom well known to the public for their dubious past and corruption activities- showing up in front of state-owned cameras, speaking non sens, each one claiming he has the ultimate program to solve all country’s problems. This rhetorical cacophony has only added to the general malaise and disillusionment of the Moroccan society as a whole.

Forty years after independence, one Moroccan out of two is illiterate, large parts of the population live in the most abject poverty, while corrupt Makhzen people and the clients of the state live in obscene wealth, and can afford ostentatious villas and properties, fancy cars and enjoy almost total impunity. Nothing significant has changed in the country in the last eight years, quite the contrary. The monarch hasn’t relinquished an inch of his prerogatives, and he has now (with this speech) confirmed his intentions.

Aboubakr Jamaï, the founder of the most popular Moroccan magazine, Le Journal Hebdo, was forced earlier this year, to leave the country in order to avoid paying a record breaking fine of $350,000, that would otherwise bankrupt his magazine. He is one of the most popular and charismatic young journalists that the country has ever produced, and one who marked the recent Moroccan journalistic scene by bringing a revolutionary new style of professional investigative journalism. He openly challenged the monarchy and the military and literally paid the price. In November 2005, Jamaï wrote a ground-breaking open letter to Mohamed VI in which he urged the monarch to grab the opportunity of his political virginity and his capital of popular sympathy to put the country on the tracks of reform. The letter fell on deaf ears.

It’s deeply depressing to see how Morocco dramatically fell from a state of overwhelming enthusiasm and hope in the future at the beginning of this century, to a situation where the elite has to flee, where voices of dissent are silenced and where Moroccans are forced to live under a medieval system.

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