Fair Reporting on Immigration in Morocco by Young Journalists

Dates: 20-22 February 2015

Country: Morocco

Morocco_Immigration“Black Peril”, “Sub-Saharan hordes spread AIDS through Morocco’s streets”, “Sub-Saharan prostitutes offer things that others don’t” – these are some of the titles from Moroccan newspapers. Like in many other countries, including the UK, the tabloids in Morocco are particularly ‘creative’ in coming up with sensational and alarming headlines and stories regarding immigration. The stories on immigrants are usually negative, rarely nuanced and often inaccurate.

Words like ’hordes’ and ‘black peril’ suggest that Morocco is swamped by Sub-Saharan immigrants, yet there are about 50,000 of them in a country of 33 million people. ‘That is hardly an invasion,’ pointed out Marc Fawe, external relations officer at UNHCR in Morocco.

Fawe and colleague Christos Christodoulides from International Organization for Migration (IOM) were guest speakers at the start of a three-day workshop in Casablanca organized by the Media Diversity Institute (MDI) and in partnership with ISIC Alumni, the most prestigious journalism and communication school.

‘Many people in Morocco associate Sub-Saharans with ‘illegal’ and ‘problems’, yet only about 15,000 to 20,000 of them are irregular migrants and many contribute positively to society,’ Fawe continued.  The participants at the MDI workshop, 14 freshly graduated ISIC students, nodded in agreement. ‘We all have family members overseas, but we look down on African immigrants here,’ said one.

The UNHCR presentation was particularly interesting for Moroccan journalists as the immigration landscape in their country is profoundly changing – providing a fertile ground for interesting stories. Over the past decade, Morocco has evolved from being one of the world’s leading emigration countries (it still has a 5 million Moroccans living abroad), into an important country of both immigration and transit, as well as one of internal migration. Immigrants are mostly from Syria, Ivory Coast and Democratic Republic of Congo and those transiting through Morocco are trying to reach Spain.

In addition, in 2013, King Mohammed VI announced a new, more liberal immigration policy that led to a significant change in attitudes and protection of refugees and asylum seekers. But these changes have yet to be fully implemented and reflected in the media.

‘We need you, journalists, to bring a more balanced, fair and accurate view of immigrants, said Fawe to the participants, and the young journalists took his plea to heart. They were given three days of intensive training in reporting diversity and asked to come up with story ideas that reflected the diversity of Moroccan society. The challenge was to tell stories about real issues through real people, including vulnerable or marginalised people and minority groups whose voices are seldom heard in the Moroccan media.

Many came up with story ideas dealing with immigration, including one on African investors in Morocco and a portrait of a Sub-Saharan refugee who became secretary general of a national organization. There were also story pitches on why EU immigrants are treated much better than African ones and on Syrian refugees making a new life in Morocco. Aside from stories on immigration, they also suggested stories on women working in slave-like conditions in a big fish-processing plant, religious minorities in Morocco, and education challenges for the visually impaired.

The workshop held in Casablanca on 20 – 22 February 2015 has been organised as a part of the MDI project “Promoting Freedom of Expression, Diversity and Inclusion in Morocco” supported by the Swiss Agency for Development Cooperation.