Morocco damages itself by stifling criticism

Morocco frequently turns to the courts when it doesn’t like what its critics have to say, and this has a chilling effect on university research and the public media. The state tries to quash criticism by journalists and other public intellectuals by using the judicial system and imposing extraordinary fines.

Professor Maati Monjib, a historian, and six others have been accused of “threatening the internal security of the state” and “receiving foreign funding without notifying the government”.

He has staged two very public hunger strikes in protest against the allegations. Monjib has been a fervent supporter of investigative journalism in the country and an outspoken critic of the very restrictive state.

Several journalists have left Morocco and others have left the profession. In an age of digital media and the rapid flow of information, the state’s campaign against freedom of expression serves mostly to generate international attention on Morocco’s human rights record. When an academic, journalist or intellectual is arrested, articles published abroad inevitably list the charges against others.

The case against Monjib and his co-accused also damages academia and university research in Morocco. There is very little funding available for research at the public universities that dominate the North African country. Most private higher education colleges and universities focus overwhelmingly on teaching, particularly vocational or professional degree programmes such as business management. For now, this takes the place of research or training in research skills.

Morocco has followed the lead of the United States and Europe when drafting education policies. A neoliberal approach means treating students like consumers who need to be satisfied with a product, as well as strengthening oversight of “product” sales – that is, teaching – and trying to align skills with job market demand.

Without the freedom to think differently, research cannot address real issues: poverty, unemployment and public health. Those who want to do such research or use their education to find practical solutions may try to leave. Those who want to stay in Morocco often leave academia.

Instead, what research and critical thinking does exist in Morocco often comes from foreign academics. Moroccan academic Youssef Chiheb has criticised foreign experts and consultants’ for their control over policy.

Monjib and other journalists and public intellectuals work at a national level. They contribute to building a public sphere that welcomes debate and new ideas organic to the country rather than imposed from elsewhere. They provide an example by expressing different points of view, encouraging young people in particular to believe they can make a difference, rather than seeking other outlets to prove themselves, such as becoming radicalised.

If Monjib and his colleagues cannot do this work, their other options are to go elsewhere, or quit. Neither is good for Morocco.

Shana Cohen is a senior research associate at the University of Cambridge in the United Kingdom.

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

The Conversation

These are unprecedented times, and the role of media to tell and record the story of South Africa as it develops is more important than ever. But it comes at a cost. Advertisers are cancelling campaigns, and our live events have come to an abrupt halt. Our income has been slashed.

The Mail & Guardian is a proud news publisher with roots stretching back 35 years. We’ve survived thanks to the support of our readers, we will need you to help us get through this.

To help us ensure another 35 future years of fiercely independent journalism, please subscribe.


Stella set to retain her perks

Communication minister will keep Cabinet perks during her two months of special leave

Not a sweet deal, Mister

Mister Sweet workers say they will not risk their health, and the lives of others, to continue producing and packaging confectionaries

Covid-19 grounds Nigeria’s medical tourists

The country’s elites, including the president, travelled abroad for treatment but now they must use the country’s neglected health system

Nehawu launches urgent court bid over protective gear for health...

The health workers’ union says the government has rebuffed its attempts to meet about mitigating risks to workers

Press Releases

Rahima Moosa Hospital nursing college introduces no-touch facial recognition access system

The new system allows the hospital to enrol people’s faces immediately, using artificial intelligence, and integrates easily with existing access control infrastructure, including card readers and biometrics

Everyone’s talking about it. Even Kentucky

Earlier this year South African fried chicken fast-food chain, Chicken Licken®, launched a campaign for their wallet-friendly EasyBucks® meals, based on the idea of ‘Everyone’s talking about it.’

New energy mix on the cards

REI4P already has and will continue to yield thousands of employment opportunities

The online value of executive education in a Covid-19 world

Executive education courses further develop the skills of leaders in the workplace

Sisa Ntshona urges everyone to stay home, and consider travelling later

Sisa Ntshona has urged everyone to limit their movements in line with government’s request

SAB Zenzele’s special AGM postponed until further notice

An arrangement has been announced for shareholders and retailers to receive a 77.5% cash payout

20th Edition of the National Teaching Awards

Teachers are seldom recognised but they are indispensable to the country's education system

Awards affirm the vital work that teachers do

Government is committed to empowering South Africa’s teachers with skills, knowledge and techniques for a changing world