A satirical talk show which opens up space for discussion of topics the Moroccan government would like to sweep under the carpet became an online sensation this summer, garnering an audience of hundreds of thousands on YouTube. But the authoritarian monarchy has hit back, ordering the closure of Racines, the cultural association which hosted the programme. Middle East Solidarity spoke to Sara Amal about what lies behind this attack on free speech.
Sign the petition in solidarity with Racines here
“In August 2018, Racines allowed the producers of the satirical talk show, ‘1 diner, 2 cons’ (One dinner party, two idiots) to film in their offices for the second time. The concept is inspired by the French programme 93, Faubourg Saint Honoré by Thierry Ardisson. In the show, two hosts, Amine Belghazi et Youssef El Moudden, invite artists, intellectuals, activists and journalists to debate politics today in Morocco in an open and critical way. The episode in question focussed principally on a speech by the King, addressing the issue of the protests in the Rif region and Jerrada, the treatment of religious minorities, the failure of the Moroccan model of development and possible alternatives. The 3 parts of the episode were viewed in total 470,000 times on YouTube.
A few weeks after the programme was broadcast, on 12 December 2018, Racines was ordered to appear in court in Casablanca, following a complaint from the police at the instigation of the Minister of the Interior. The police demanded the dissolution of the cultural association, on the grounds that it has “organised activities unrelated to the objectives mentioned in its statutes”. On 26 December, after only 2 hearings, the tribunal issued a dissolution order against Racines.
The order attempts to bring to an end nearly a decade of activity by Racines, which was founded in September 2010 in Casablanca. The association demands the horizontal integration of culture in public development policies. It is an initiative of the ‘General Assembly of Culture in Morocco’, a biennale event organised since 2014 in order to bring together cultural professionals, artists and civil society organisations to evaluate cultural policy in Morocco and propose strategies which respond to the needs of both the public and cultural professionals. These gatherings also represent an opportunity for the exchange of ideas and practices with international cultural organisations and actors on various themes and disciplines (such as street arts or circus), leading to the creation of numerous networks in Africa, Europe and the Arab world. Racines has thus allowed other civil society organisations to draw inspiration from this approach and to develop similar work around cultural policy in their own countries, including Rwanda, Lebanon, Tunisia, Egypt, Mauritania, South Africa, France, Italy and many others.
By proposing culture as an unavoidable tool of human social and economic development, and raising the slogan “Culture is the solution”, Racines works equally through cultural action and artistic creation, towards citizens’ emancipation, freedom of expression, accountability and solidarity. It leads numerous activities around issues such as racism, violence against women, access to public space, universal rights and basic freedoms and civic education. The association uses a wide range of formats in its educational work, including films, documentaries, videos and works of theatre.
Racines is appealing the court’s judgement and is continuing its activities while awaiting the next court hearing. A solidarity campaign has been launched by Racines’ partner organisations locally and internationally, including a petition which has gathered support from academics, artists, journalists and activists across the world.”
What you can do:
- Sign the petition here
- Share a message on social media: Twitter : @RacinesMaroc #JeSoutiensRacines #LaCultureEstLaSolution #LaCultureResteLaSolution #ISupportRacines #CultureIsTheSolution #CultureRemainsTheSolution #الثقافة_هي_الحل #تبقى_الثقافة_هي_الحل #أتضامن_مع_جذور
- Read more on the background on Racines’ website