Not long after our Arab region conference in Casablanca, I was called upon once again to travel to Morocco where journalists are increasingly put under pressure. Things looked bright with the publication of a White Book on media law reforms and our member union, the SNPM, seemed confident having pushed many important issues, such as access to information, self-regulation and a root-and-branch shake up of the press code, a few notches up on the agenda of politicians. Almost unexpectedly, the publisher of the biggest circulation daily Al Massae was arrested on 28th April. He has since been under intense questioning about a series of daily columns he has written concerning the security services, cases of corruption and comments on entrenched powers. The charges which included at the beginning “insult to officials” and “fabricating evidence” have now been beefed up by the prosecuting magistrate. An impressive coalition of organisations, including our member union, have been set up to lobby for his release. The detention of Niny raises doubt about the will of the Moroccan government to implement its promises of political reforms it announced recently to placate the massive wave of protest.
During my visit I also launched a very important training session on safety of journalists organised by the IFJ. A dozen representatives from our various member unions in the Arab world will gather in Rabat for several weeks to learn about all aspects of safety training in our first attempt ever to set up a group of trainers in the region. At a time where journalists everywhere in the Arab world are under pressure, the IFJ has set out to give priority to a tailor-made package addressing the specific requirements engendered by the current civil disorders in the region. Training of trainers is a tough programme including basic first-aid training as well as intense classrooms and scenarios on safety work. Every union in the region has nominated one of its members to be trained as safety trainer so he/she can qualify in providing immediate support and assistance to fellow journalists, news organisations and other media workers in their respective countries and the region.