Middle East Studies

Annemarie Iddins

Assistant Professor of Communication, Fairfield University

Decolonizing Media Policy: The Evolution of Morocco’s Press Code and Discourses of Digital Reform

This work analyzes the evolution of media policy in Morocco, focusing on discourse surrounding 2016 revisions to Morocco’s press code and their framing by independent media, civil society and the state. Situating these revisions in relation to economic liberalization and its relationship with cultural industries raises questions about the role of policy and policymaking in a global era, particularly its relation to recent state strategies of judicial harassment and economic censorship. Much of Morocco’s digital media emerged in the aftermath of the 2011 Arab Spring, and the project to revise Morocco’s press code was introduced in 2012 under a newly-elected Islamist government, eventually becoming law in 2016. While the government framed the laws as a victory for freedom of expression and professionalization of the emergent sector, media industries and civil society raised concerns about their attempt to reign in the popular political potential of digital culture, responding to the rise of the digital as a platform for independent media and broader cultural dynamism in the lead-up to and aftermath of the Arab Spring moment. Looking at the 2016 Press Code through this lens demonstrates that discourses of “professionalization” both draw on longstanding allegations that a critical press is not a professional one (and that emerging markets need cheerleading instead of investigative journalism) and attempt to reassert state gatekeeping power over digital media with a mixture of market and bureaucratic mechanisms for control. While much attention is paid to cases of extreme authoritarianism in media-state relations, fewer scholars have seriously considered the intricacies of media policy in semi-authoritarian societies and their shifting mechanisms of operation in the context of neoliberal globalization. In Morocco and many other semi-authoritarian societies of the Global South, a combination of written and unwritten rules and discretionary application of regulations shape the bounds of agency, with emergent digital platforms and practices presenting new dynamics of contention and negotiation between media practitioners, civil society and the state.

Annemarie Iddins is an assistant professor in the Department of Communication at Fairfield University. Her research is primarily situated within the global media studies subfield of communication, focusing on transnational media industries and cultural politics in the Maghreb and its diaspora. She is currently working on a book manuscript titled No Concessions: Independent Media and the Reshaping of the Moroccan Public, which aims to provide a model for analyzing media-state relations in contexts that combine strong state influence with neoliberal tendencies. Iddins earned her Ph.D. in communication studies from the University of Michigan and her work has been published in Media, Culture & Society, the International Journal of Communication, and the International Journal of Cultural Studies.