Thursday, November 20, 2014

Press Freedom in Morocco ~ An Important Step Forward

Morocco is currently debating a new press code meant to reinforce press freedom throughout the Kingdom. The draft code, presented last month by Minister of Communications Mustapha El Khalfi, lays out a bold reform plan that, when passed, should mark a big advancement for press freedom in Morocco
Communications Minister Mustapha El Khalifi

Caitlin Dearing Scott, writing for All, reports that the draft code centres on strengthening the guarantees of freedom and the independence of journalists and press institutions; protecting the rights and freedom of individuals and society; making the judiciary the exclusive authority in all press cases and strengthening its role in the protection of freedom of the press; and defining the rights and freedoms of journalists.

Notably, the code proposes:

Guaranteeing the right to access information;

Guaranteeing strict legal safeguards to protect journalists from attacks;

Establishing a mechanism to mediate disputes in the press through the National Council for the Press, which will include representatives of civil society'

Adopting judicial protection of confidentiality of sources;

Removing prison sentences for journalists and replacing them with moderate fines; and

Eliminating the suspension or prohibition of publications without the approval of the court.

The code also includes a section on promoting rights and freedoms for online media, a sign of its intent to respond to changing realities in the Moroccan media.

The project to update the press code is the result of broad consultations that began in 2012 among the government, professional journalist organizations, unions, media representatives, and the National Council for Human Rights.

It reflects Morocco's domestic and international commitments with regard to human rights and freedom of the press, as well as: the 2011 constitution; high royal directives; the government's program; the National Action Plan on democracy and human rights; the recommendations of the Equity and Reconciliation Commission (IER); and the recommendations of the White Paper on the national debate "Media and Society."

The code was drafted by a Committee in consultation with union and media representatives, notably the National Union of the Moroccan Press (NMFS), and the Federation of Moroccan Newspaper Editors (FMEJ), and is now being considered through a national dialogue conducted by the General Secretariat of the Government.

Following the conclusion of the national dialogue later this month, the draft will be submitted to the Council of Government, then to the two chambers of Parliament. It remains to be seen what changes will result from this collaborative effort, but the draft code looks like an important step for Morocco's ongoing liberalization and democracy-building efforts.

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Wednesday, November 19, 2014

The Hamadcha of Fez on CNN

The Fez Hamadcha are currently rehearsing for their upcoming tour in Australia (see story here). The tour has been organised by The View from Fez with the assistance of the Woodford Festival, the Festival of Sydney and the Moroccan Embassy in Australia. Recently CNN filmed the Hamadcha in Fez...

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The View from Fez - Our 9th Birthday!

This week, back in November 2005, The View from Fez posted its first story and, at the time, we were amazed that we actually had anyone viewing our posts. Now, nine years on, we celebrate having posted 4,500 stories, 4,577, 279 page views and more than a million and a half (1,541,095) regular readers in 40 countries across the world.

The majority of writing and photography on The View From Fez is by Sandy McCutcheon and Suzanna Clarke. Over the last few years we have been fortunate enough to have a large number of contributors, guest writers, photographers, visiting journalists, musicologists and interns. This has allowed us to provide the most complete coverage of events such as the Fes Festival of World Sacred Music, the Fez Festival of Sufi Culture and the Amazigh Festival. Our thanks to you all.

Gratitude is also due to the generous support of our sponsors and readers who have made it possible for The View from Fez to assist a number of young Moroccans with serious medical or emotional problems, as well as to provide support for education and training.

The View From Fez team covering the 2013 Fes Festival - Sandy McCutcheon, 
Natasha Christov, Suzanna Clarke, Stephanie Clifford-Smith and Vanessa Bonnin

What our readers and contributors have to say: 
"The View From Fez is THE reference in terms of cultural information in Fez and the region, and it would be hard to live without it! It's the only serious and reliable source for interesting information for this region of Morocco."  Philippe Laleu, director of the French Institute in Fez
"Happy Birthday to The View From Fez! The View From Fez was the first English language blog devoted to Morocco and is still the best way to keep up with what is happening in Fez. It started out as The View From Fés, and I remember the heated debate trying to convince Sandy to change it to Fez." David Amster, director of the American Language Center, Fez
"THE VIEW FROM FEZ captures the many interwoven layers of Morocco's most magical city in the rarest and most extraordinary of ways. Highly recommended for explorers and armchair travellers alike." Tahir Shah, author and filmmaker -
"By far the most interesting blog about Morocco run by people passionate about this country in all its aspects."  Frédéric Sola - Riad Laaroussa, Fez Medina
"Happy Birthday to The View from Fez! One of my favourite Blogs as it lifts me out of my world and places me in a another world that is so different, so vibrant, so fascinating. Keep transporting me. Here’s to another 9 years of The View from Fez." Lisa Clifford, writer, Florence, Italy -
"As an expat in Fez I find the blog a fantastic source of what's going on, in the arts, travel ideas, news roundups... I also use the search engine a lot when I want to find out about a particular subject. It helps me make sense of the world around me and inspires me to get to concerts, talks and openings." Sue Bail, Riad Manager Fez Medina
"Discovering The View from Fez was like finding a shortcut right into the heart of the city's cultural scene." Christina Ammon, Travel Writer, Colorado, USA
"The View from Fez was the first site I visited when I learned I would be traveling to Morocco. I scrolled through posts on zellig tile, recipes with argan oil, and photos of twirling Sufis in ecstatic dance. I was enthralled. The View from Fez is an enticing invitation and a knowledgeable guide to a dynamic city. Anna Elkins, Poet and Traveller, USA
"To share, to view, images from Fez on the blog helps one to be a traveler and an artist. The novelty of living in Morocco is kept fresh by sharing the experiences, the moments of light, with a larger readership. And The View from Fez allows me to share my view of Fez. A photo comes to life the more it is seen. Thanks TVFF."
Jake Warga, photographic contributor, Ifrane, Morocco
"The vibrant colors and intricacy of the zelij, the putrid and pleasant scent of the tanneries and tajines, the persistent warm welcomes and calls to prayer, the intertwining of French and Darija - the alchemy of it all bewitched me from the second I stepped through the keyhole gate into Fez. I didn't have to learn to love it. I just fell. Instantly. The day I left I already longed to return. I find myself drawn often to The View From Fez, where I browse photos and news of the faces and places that so charmed me. The spell is cast anew. Happy Birthday TVFF! Here's to many more. A bientôt!" Kimberley Lovato traveler, writer, champagne drinker. San Francisco, USA
"A very happy ninth Birthday to the View from Fez, from Larry Marshall in Melbourne Australia. It was a privilege to work with the View from Fez on the occasion of the 20th anniversary of the Fes Festival of World Sacred Music. As a former colleague of Sandy’s from the ABC Radio National in Australia, I was really very proud to be contributing to the most acclaimed English language website on Moroccan issues, and on Fez in particular. The photos that came out of our work on the festival were truly beautiful and captured the breadth of talent on show in Fez. The team that worked to bring these stories to life were on a tight deadline and each morning saw a fresh series of reports on all that had happened the day and night before – this was exciting journalism which reached hundreds of thousands of people around the world." Larry Marshall, Australia
The View from Fez is one of the most important journalistic developments for Morocco in the last decade providing an intimate local view of the culture of Morocco. Happy 9th birthday and many happy returns.~ Frank Rynne, producer Master Musicians of Joujouka

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Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Happy Independence Day Morocco !

Every year Morocco celebrates its Independence Day, the Eid Al Istiqulal, on November 18 to honor the return of their King Mohammed to Morocco.
The return from Madagascar

The King had been on exile to Madagascar when Morocco was a French protectorate. On this day the King proclaimed the freedom of Morocco from France and Spain which had colonized the country for 44 years.

The country celebrated today and even received a nod from Google!

Today, the Independence Day is an opportunity to look back at the achievements of the three monarch who led the country through the different stages of its history, namely, late Mohammed V and Hassan II and the current king Mohammed VI.

It is also an occasion to hail the efforts and sacrifices of the Moroccan people, who sacrificed lives and money to achieve the independence of the country and subsequently to place it amongst the democratic, modern, moderate and open countries.

A little history - According to the official story, November 18, 1955, Mohammed V declared the independence of Morocco, after signing with the French Prime Minister Antoine Pinay.

However, the date of 18 November is actually one of the enthronement of Mohammed V in 1927. At the same date in 1955, Mohammed V commemorating his early reign, in a speech, announced negotiations with France to put an end to the protectorate. So the date is now officially the anniversary of the independence of Morocco. However, the repeal of the protectorate between Morocco and France was actually signed a few months later, on March 2, 1956

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Fez's Unique Hotel Sahrai Opens

The newest five star hotel in Fez officially opened on Monday November 17. Hotel Sahrai is the vision of co-owner Anis Sefrioui, and fulfils a life long dream

Hotel Sahrai's manager, Guillaume Binder, and co-owner Anis Sefrioui 

"When I was growing up in Fez, there was a old house on this site, with arcades. I always dreamed to build a hotel here," says Anis Sefrioui.

He was speaking at the opening of the Hotel Sahrai, last night, which was attended by a selected coterie of invited guests, including Moroccan Minister for Tourism Lahcen Haddad.

"We want Fez to be a high end cultural destination," said Mr Haddad. "This hotel is part of that, but we need more like it. It's an excellent mix of traditional Islamic design and is very modern also, with a wonderful view of the Medina."

Moroccan Minister for Tourism Lahcen Haddad

It took five years of negotiation for Mr Sefrioui to purchase the property, located on the hill between the new city and the Medina, and another three years to design and build it.

The realisation of Mr Sefrioui's vision is made even more significant, as the hotel's manager, Guillaume Binder, is an old friend from his days of studying hospitality in Lausanne in Switzerland. "We met on the first day of our studies, and we've been friends ever since," says Mr Sefrioui.

The hotel was designed by rising talent Paris-based interior designer Christopher Pillet. "He achieved the objective of making a contemporary hotel with a specifically Moroccan identity," says Mr Sefrioui. It uses local materials, such as Taza stone and hand carved plaster, but with creative, modern flair.

There are 50 rooms, with views of Fez and the Atlas mountains, a large outdoor swimming pool, rooftop bar and lounge bar, a Givenchy spa and two restaurants. Relais de Paris offers a continental menu - it's rumoured a renowned international chef is starting there soon - and Amaraz has gourmet Moroccan dishes.

Unique and unusual artwork, inspired by Moroccan crafts, adorns the hotel walls and entry hallway. At last night's opening, the work of conceptual artist Eric Van Hove was on display. "He's used a Mercedes engine as inspiration, and got Moroccan craftspeople to replicate it using traditional materials," said Stephen di Renza, creative director for Jardin Majorelle in Marrakech. "The work has been bought by Dartmouth College in the US, but I believe it will first tour to I'Institute du Monde Arabe."

Above and below: artwork by Eric Van Hove, inspired by a Mercedes engine

For further info on Hotel Sahrai: CLICK HERE

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