UNESCO links media self-regulation with Media and Information Literacy in Morocco

Bridging the worlds of journalists and the public was the purpose of a recent round table on “Media deontology in Morocco and Media and Information literacy”, organized by the Moroccan journalists union SNPM (Syndicat National de la Presse Marocaine) and UNESCO.

The seminar represented the kick-off event of the project “Preventing Violence and Promoting Gender Equality through media in Morocco and Senegal," supported by the Spanish Agency of International Cooperation for Development (AECID).

The project is implemented by UNESCO's International Programme for the Development of Communication (IPDC), and involves, inter alia, support to Morocco's Conseil national de la presse (CNP), which is in the process of being set up. 

Hosted by the Institut supérieur de l'information et de la communication (ISIC) in Rabat, the event took place on 21 November 2017. The seminar was attended by more than 70 journalists, media managers, students of journalism as well as representatives of national institutions and the academia.

Speakers assessed how the National Press Council of Morocco, once established, could play a logical role in empowering the public with media and information literacy competencies that could help reinforce its own work in promoting ethical journalism.

The opening speech was delivered by Mr Abdallah Bakkali, President of the SNPM, who stressed the importance of upholding journalistic professional standards for the credibility of the media before its public.

Guy Berger, Director for Freedom of Expression and Media Development at UNESCO, delivered a keynote address, which underlined that a press council in current times should do more than simply address complaints and uphold professional standards.

“A press council should always help to promote press freedom, which is a necessary condition for self-regulation rather than state regulation,” said Berger.

“Today, and even more importantly, a press council needs to help citizens understand how media operates, and how society can interact with media and information in general, so that the public can demand and support quality journalism.”

Especially in a time where an unprecedented quantity of information can be overwhelming, it is important that the journalistic standards and ethics in the public interest should be understood by everyone, from media professionals to the public, said the UNESCO director.

During the roundtable, Mr Younes Mjahed, Secretary-general of the SNPM and 1st Vice-president of the International Federation of Journalists, recalled the milestones which over the last decade characterized the advocacy of Moroccan journalists for the media self-regulation.

Ms Muriel Hanot, Secretary-general of the Belgian Conseil de déontologie journalistique (CDJ)shared the challenges and achievements in the establishment of the CDJ, as well as its current functioning. Ms Hanot also highlighted the participatory and pedagogical role that a press council can - and should - have towards its public who, thanks to the press council's mediation, could themselves contribute to the quality of information. 

Professor Abdellatif Bensfia, ISIC's Deputy Director, provided a comparative analysis of several media self-regulatory mechanisms around the world, while Ms Zouhour Himmich, Ombudsperson of the Morocco public broadcaster SNRT, introduced newsroom-based self-regulation mechanisms.

Held in the framework of the Moroccan edition of the global Media and Information Literacy Week 2017, the round table was inaugurated by Mr José Eugenio Thovar Lozano, Counsellor at the Embassy of Spain in Morocco. 

The creation of the CNP as a statutory self-regulation mechanism in Morocco is envisaged by the recently-approved law n°90.13, and soon the elections of its members are expected by the representatives of media professionals and publishers.