Testing days for Morocco’s print media amid pandemic

After three months of suspension under government orders, there is little hope that the industry could return to business-as-usual.

Sunday 05/07/2020
A file picture of a Moroccan man looking at newspapers. (AFP)
A file picture of a Moroccan man looking at newspapers. (AFP)

CASABLANCA – The emergence and spread of the coronavirus pandemic has led to what is arguably one of the most testing times for Morocco’s publishing industry.

With mass gatherings and festivals a thing of the past and sporting events cancelled, Moroccan newspapers have had to find new ways to fill their pages.

Even after receiving permission May 26 to resume printing, there has been much uncertainty about the sector, with many people unwilling to buy newspapers for fear of them spreading the virus, and more and more people depending on online news.

Coffee shops and restaurants, once major buyers of print news, are no longer sharing their products due to new hygiene restrictions.

After three months of suspension under government orders, there is little hope that the industry could return to business as usual.

Long before the pandemic, print journalism in Morocco was already suffering from a deep structural crisis, struggling to keep up with decreasing circulation, compete with online news platforms and attract advertisers.

Without proper digital transformation and financial support, the coronavirus pandemic may bring traditional newspapers as we know them to a final collapse.

In an attempt to deal with the crisis, Moroccan Minister of Culture, Youth and Sports Othman el-Ferdaous unveiled June 26 an emergency plan to financially support Morocco’s print and electronic media with a $21.22 million budget.

According to the plan, the ministry will grant aid to Moroccan press companies to help them overcome repercussions of the COVID-19 crisis and successfully re-launch their activities.

“The classic aid is insufficient,” Ferdaous said before the Commission of Education, Culture, and Communication at the House of Representatives, prompting his department to coordinate with the Ministry of Economy and Administration Reform to devise an emergency plan to come to the rescue of print and electronic media.

The minister said his department received 130 requests for support, 30 of which are from newly-founded media.

The emergency plan dedicated $7.77 million to cover salary payments for three months (July, August, and September).

Printing houses that print more than 500,000 newspaper copies will benefit from $1.55 million in aid, according to Ferdaous.

The national press distributor, Sapress, is expected to receive direct aid of $1.55 million in addition to a state recapitalisation of up to $1.04 million.

Morocco’s media outlets, specifically the print sector, have been struggling to cope with the repercussions of the coronavirus outbreak, especially after three months of suspended activities in the country.