Did Morocco Really Ban Sharing Newspapers in Public? Not Exactly

15920664621_f0bd0b5888_hThere’s a story going around this week, first reported in The Telegraph and then picked up by Techdirt, that Morocco had banned the sharing of newspapers in public.

According to the latest spin, Morocoo’s Communication Ministry had banned “people in cafes sharing newspapers with others”. That is a common practice in coffee shops around the world, and it is now illegal in Morocco.

Or at least that is what the press reports are saying; if we go back four chains in this game of Telephone we find a different story.

From The Telegraph:

It is a familiar sight in any pub, cafe or train carriage – newspapers being left on seats for others to read, passed from friend to friend,  or even handed over to curious strangers.

But in Morocco, the practice has been banned after publishers complained they were losing millions in revenue because people kept sharing them.

Members of the Moroccan Federation of Newspaper Publishers (FMEJ) said the habit of “leaving newspapers behind in public places” was costing their industry $150m each year in lost revenue.

The habit of sharing newspapers, leaving them lying around and generally trying to avoid paying for them was “bleeding the sector,” they claimed in an appeal to the Moroccan government.

As a result, the country’s communications minster has agreed to ban providing newspapers for free in cafes, as well as lending them.

Mustapha Khalfi said newspaper editors were “suffering” and that the government needed to try and “limit the damage.”

“The figures demonstrate just how serious it is,” he said in an interview with the Moroccan news website HuffPo Maghreb.

The problem with this story is that it sounds too good to be true. This is a man bites dog type of story for me, and many others in the media, so rather than simply accept it I went looking for confirmation.

And I found it – sorta.

According to the Ministry of Communication’s press release, there is no ban on sharing newspapers in public. Instead, the Ministry has agreed that the Moroccan Federation of Newspaper Publishers can offer its input on the draft law which would ban this practice.

There is no ban, nor is there a law which would enact the ban at a future time.

Instead, we have a proposal for a ban.

Or rather, that is what I got out of Google Translate when I fed in the press release. (While there’s always a chance that GT screwed up, I have found that officialeeze like public pronouncements usually comes through in the clear.) At the very least, I am more willing to trust Google Translate than I would trust the press. Frankly, you should take the same position, and that includes me.

Would anyone be interested in providing a human translation for the original press release, or other local coverage?

I want to know what’s really going on, and whether I am as off as everyone else.

image by andynash

Nate Hoffelder

View posts by Nate Hoffelder
Nate Hoffelder is the founder and editor of The Digital Reader. He has been blogging about indie authors since 2010 while learning new tech skills weekly. He fixes author sites, and shares what he learns on The Digital Reader's blog. In his spare time, he fosters dogs for A Forever Home, a local rescue group.


  1. Felix14 June, 2016

    You mean it’s not frightening enough that such a law in on the table at all?

    1. Nate Hoffelder14 June, 2016

      It’s so frightening that I don’t dare misreport it. There’s still a chance to shoot it down, and describing it as a done deal stops people from even trying.

  2. Jay20 June, 2016

    Firstly, due to loss of telecom revenue, Morocco turned off Skype access in January and many people are now using a VPN to by-pass the block, and now we have the revenue loss from this newspaper sharing issue which is going around like crazy now… one article is even claiming “Morocco bans reading newspapers in public” let alone sharing them. All of this press coverage is sure to have caught the attention of the Moroccan government and it will likely only be only a matter of time before they realise that the whole thing will be unenforceable. It would require a huge amount of police time to monitor and enforce a ban on public newspaper sharing. This article from May 28th would seem to add some light on the subject – moroccoworldnews.com are pretty clued up with government news and most anglophones in Morocco read them. http://www.moroccoworldnews.com/2016/05/187597/morocco-to-ban-free-reading-of-newspapers-in-public-spaces/

  3. Jay20 June, 2016

    >Would anyone be interested in providing a human translation for the original press release, or other local coverage?

    OK, I got the google translate (para 3 addresses the question) and noted the following: the Meeting on May 23rd was between the Minister of Communication and the Federal Bureau of Moroccan Newspaper Publishers.
    “In response to federal demands within the framework of the strategic partnership between the professionals and the ministry, it was agreed on the following:
    my comment: There has been an agreement by the two above-mentioned parties but no laws have, as yet, been enacted.
    para 1 -“Contract modification program for the written press so as to ease the terms of advantage regarding the size of the clouds”
    my comment: “the clouds” meaning online publications. They are concerned about online publishing advantage and thus want to revise the Contract for the written press in order to give it an advantage over online publications. And how would they achieve this? This could be dangerous territory for online publishers.
    para 2 – “The increase in the price of administrative and judicial declarations and open the way for electronic journalism to take advantage of them and focused performance Otmentha Ministry of communication.”
    my comment: The Ministry of Communication seeks more input in electronic journalism.
    para 3 – “The introduction of appropriate project in the press and publication law that prohibits reading free newspapers in public places.”
    my comment: seems badly worded (maybe google translate means “free reading of newspapers”?) but would appear to be the introduction of a law to prohibit the shared reading of newspapers in public places.
    para 6: “Share a representative of the federal ministerial committee which examines the urgent measures to protect the economic model of e-Moroccan press.”
    my comment: “urgent measures” mmh. Sounds like proposed regulation via licensing, censorship or shut down of non-mainstream online publishing. We shall see.
    para 7: “Federal participation in the planned launch with Google and Facebook to negotiate about the unequal competition on publicity in Morocco.”
    my comment: Good luck with that. I just hope that Morocco does not arrive at its “China” moment.


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