The concept of modernity in Moroccan press

Research Paper (undergraduate), 2012

17 Pages, Grade: B


« Nous voyons se confronter deux tendances; avec leurs variations: une qui considère que l´idéologie religieuse s’oppose à la démocratie et à la modernité et prône la séparation de la religion et de l’Etat; l’autre qui invite la société à revenir à l'Islam comme source de légitimité et de régulation sociale, en tentant de le placer au centre des pratiques politiques[1]»

Mouna Hachin


The concept of modernity and democracy has taken up many discussions in the Arab World. A constant feature is the debate as to whether or not the Arab or Islamic World is compatible with the idea of modernity, and understanding this idea from a Western perspective, in relation to a set of abstract values such as liberty or democracy.

The aim of this paper is mainly to attempt an analysis of the concept of modernity through the use of the French press in Morocco, concretely three newspapers: the “independents” Maroc-Hebdo, and “ L´economiste” and the “officialist” Le Matin du Sahara et du Magheb,

The press is not just an interesting media due to the value it holds in providing information on world events, but also due to the fact that it reflects the opinions and points of view of the person, or the group behind the writing; therefore providing an interesting mirror of the society. The press has been chosen as a source in order to examine the Islamic or Arab vision of modernity. The discussion about the treatment of the concept “Modernity” in the Moroccan press is addressed through the evaluation of several questions:

The paper will mainly emphasize the concept of modernity; first talking about the general considerations of the concept in an abstract sense, then focusing on the main topics of discussion, and at last evaluating the paper of tradition in the modernizing initiative, distinguishing two different discourses.

This is a work basically descriptive, due to the characteristic of the sources ( primary) which are not opportune for the interpretation. The work will intercalate the text with many quotes, referring to the discussed topic.

This work examines the existence of different perspectives on the same topic, through the treatment of the news and the language used. The paper will analyze different news between the years 2011 and 2012. It is mainly based in primary sources, however some secondary sources were also used as a theoretical framework.


Press in Morocco

First, it is advisable provide a short analysis about the newspapers, and the general situation of press in Morocco.

Briefly, one can say the Moroccan press system is considered one of the most plurals inside Arab World ( Jadidi, 2012), but it is true the Monarchy has an indirect control over press through grants and fines, which function is mainly to avoid questioning some type of issues that are almost untouchable ( The Monarchy, the Sahara issue and the Religion).

This certain press plurality is visible through the numerous journals in Arabic and French which exist inside the country. According to the annual report of “Reporteros sin Fronteras” ( Journalist without borders) Morocco has the 135 rank in Freedom of Press, in the overall world.

The main characteristic of the press analyzed here is that it is a “phrancophone” press, and for that reason, linked to an idea of cultural elite. In turn, it is reflected in a higher concern for politics and social topics, in opposition to Arab press, where in general, the news about events or sports have more relevance ( Cooper, A.M).

This idea of elite is more remarkable if we consider that approximately 40 per cent of population is illiterate, and in addition, according to approximate estimations, only one per cent of Moroccan population usually read newspapers ( Muñoz Ortega, 2012)

So, one may object, of course, according to these data that press is not representative of the real popular opinion, however there are several reasons why this journals may have a remarkable role.

As the journalist Inmaculada Szmolka points out ( 2006), the writing press is the communicational sector which has taken up one of the most important roles in the political evolution of the country in last years due to these ideas are sometimes a mirror to see the initiative of the modernist sectors of society. The newspaper media have placed a significant role in the process of political liberalization and transition to democracy.

Secondly, the role of the elite French press has a important power as generator of opinion, despite its small diffusion. Apart of that, we have to consider the characteristics of each journal to understand its importance.


The newspaper Le Matin du Sahara et du Magheb ( The Morning of Sahara and Maghreb) is a diary newspaper, with a diffusion of 80.000 numbers each day. It is the officialist publication “par excellence” and its opinions reflected in a good way, the official opinion of Monarchy and the Makzhen[2] about different topics, both political and social, being considering almost as a official “propaganda organ” by some authors ( Laparra Casado, M., 2007)

On the other hand, Maroc Hebdo journal is a weekly journal, with a diffusion of 20.000 numbers each week. It has an “independent editorial policy”. The editorial group of this newspaper had serious problems with the Moroccan monarchy in the past, receiving the largest fine in the story of Moroccan press in 2008 However some authors consider this newspapers as part of official press; due to this incident the editorial policy became moderate in relation with go through the “red lines” of Moroccan press. It is a left-wing newspaper, and non alienated with any political party.

Lastly, L´economiste ( The economist) is a diary journal, with a diffusion of 24.000 numbers each day. It is the journal of the economic elites. If it is true this journal is not critical with the Makzhen, it is one of the few French journals which is not directly or indirectly dependant upon any political party or the Monarchy in order to get its revenues. It is financed mainly through advertisement revenues.

Representativeness of the sample

Therefore, if it is true these newspapers are not representative of the whole Moroccan population, it is possible to say that they are representatives of the Moroccan elite in a some way. A Moroccan elite which are still conserve a high degree of influence, in different levels, as in a large part of the Arab world.

The selection is based on the possibility to use the digital archives and the linguistic accessibility, and the articles, in general were selected based on the relation with the treated topics, and the chronological proximity. Although the quoted articles in the paper are 15, the sample includes around 100 – 120 articles.

In this sense, the results displayed in this paper are limited to the selected media, and it is not possible to extrapolate, or generalize the data to whole Moroccan press . However these media are important speakers of the cultural elites of the country, so we can find some similarities and points in common.

Despite we are talking about a similar audience, we can find also different discourses in relation to modernity, which in general, has a positive value. It provides at the same time different perceptions, especially in relation with modernity and its relation with tradition, as we will see in the next pages.

The concept of modern


In first place, we are going to focus in the concept of modernity in Moroccan press, and the values related with it.

The Cambridge dictionary defines modernity as “the condition that results from being modern”. In turn the word modern is defined as “designed and made using the most recent ideas and methods” ( Cambridge ).

. These definitions do not clear up the concept, but they refer to an abstract concept. An abstract concept which, in turn is depending in a good way in the own values of the person or group.

As an example of the latter abstraction, the same concept can have different perspectives, even inside the cultures. For example, the jihad can have very different perceptions, from the need to preach Islam to peaceful ways to the need of doing the Holy War in the name of God, however it has a common and evident definition

That is why the concept of modernity does not have, or should not have the same value in the Islamic world than in the West, neither inside the own Arab world.


[1]We are in face of two trends : One, which consider the religious ideology is opposite to democracy and modernity, and it looks for the separation between State and Religion, and another which invites the society to go back to Islam as a source of legitimacy and social regulation, in order to place it in the centre of political practices”.

[2] The Makzhen is the governing elite in Morocco centred around the king and consisting of royal notables, businessmen, wealthy landowners, tribal leaders, top-ranking military personnel, security service bosses, and other well-connected members of the establishment.

Excerpt out of 17 pages


The concept of modernity in Moroccan press
University of Southern Denmark  (Middle East Studies)
Culture and Religion in Middle East
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ISBN (Book)
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Quote paper
Samuel Perrino Martínez (Author), 2012, The concept of modernity in Moroccan press, Munich, GRIN Verlag,


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