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POGAR > Countries > Country Theme: Civil Society: Morocco
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Laws of Associations

The Code of Public Liberties, adopted in 1958 and amended in 1973, regulates associations in Morocco. The law states that civil society organizations may not engage in political activities.

In the 1990s, human rights movements, women’s organizations, youth groups and cultural associations in Morocco developed a degree of autonomy and operational freedom. Close relations with the European Union contributed to measures of political liberalization. Transparency Maroc (TM), the Moroccan section of Transparency International, was founded in 1995 by a group of lawyers, academics, journalists and business people. Officially recognized in 1998, it exemplifies an expanding civil society. The activities of the Association Maroc 2020 have promoted a new vision of public involvement in civic affairs. The recent reform of the Personal Status Law has encouraged women's freedom to engage in society. A new group of entrepreneurs has also invigorated the General Confederation of Moroccan Enterprises (CGEM). Since 1997, moreover, Morocco has been experimenting with tanawub (alternation of power), which calls for the elected opposition to partake in government.

Shortly after becoming prime minister in 1998, Abderrahmane Youssoufi announced that his government's commitment to administrative reform was to be translated into a Good Management Pact (PBG). The pact is to serve as a reference guide for civil servants, providing them with a clear description of the principles and standards expected to guide their behavior, both within the administration and in their contacts with the populations they are supposed to serve. Responsibility for the elaboration of the PBG was given to The Ministry of Civil Service and Administrative Reform designed this ethics code for public officials in 1999 in consultation with academics and other outside experts.

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Political Parties

Article 3 of the Constitution permits political parties, of which there are 29 registered with the Ministry of the Interior. The council of ministers approved on July 6, 2005 the political parties law, which forbids their establishment on religious, racial or tribal bases. This approval opens the way for referring the law to the parliament and admitting it constitutionally before it becomes effective. The authorities have licensed the "Civilized Alternative" Party, which has an Islamic orientation. However, the authorities stick to their refusal to recognize the "Justice and Benevolence" group headed by Sheikh Abd al-Salam Yassin. The four major parties include the two members of ruling coalition, the Socialist Union of Popular Forces (USFP) and the Istiqlal Party, followed by the Party for Justice and Development, Morocco’s only legal Islamist political part, and the National Rally of Independents. The Popular Movement, a Berber nationalist party, has performed well in the two parliamentary elections held so far. There are also political organizations that do not contest the elections, notably Al-Adl wa-l-Ihsan, an Islamist formation on the far right of Moroccan politics.

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Government Regulations

In order to operate legally in Morocco, an association needs to submit a written statement to the proper government agency in charge of registering and overseeing associations in each district where it operates. The statement lays out the purpose of the association and the identity of its founders and leaders. The Ministry of Interior monitors the activities of civic associations.

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Associations and Unions

There are three officially recognized non-governmental human rights groups: the Moroccan Human Rights Organization (OMDH), the Moroccan Human Rights Association (AMDH), and the Moroccan Defense League of Human Rights (LMDDH). They jointly proclaimed a National Charter of Human Rights in 1997. The government permitted the Moroccan Association of Attorneys and the Moroccan Professional Association of Lawyers to offer this initiative their legal assistance. In January 2001, the world congress of the International Federation of Human Rights met in Morocco, the first international conference on human rights to be held in an Arab nation.

In 1990, the king established the Consultative Council on Human Rights (CCHR), headed by the president of the Supreme Court and composed of representatives of government and opposition political parties, labor unions, human rights organizations and religious groups, to advise the king on human rights and prison reforms. A constitutional amendment in 1992 specified Morocco’s obligation to observe international covenants on human rights. A Ministry of Human Rights was created in 1993. Royal pardons in 1991 and 1994 freed hundreds of political prisoners and allowed the return of a number of exiles.

Some 5 to 6 percent of Morocco's 9 million workers are unionized in 17 trade union federations. The three most important are the Moroccan Union of Labor (UMT), the Confederation of Democratic Labor (CDT), and the General Union of Working Moroccans (UGTM). The UMT has no political affiliation, whereas the CDT is affiliated with the Socialist Union of Popular Forces and the UGTM with the Istiqlal Party.

In 1998, the Network of Associations for the Fight Against Corruption (CIACC) was created. Originally formed by six NGOs, this umbrella organization has grown to encompass more than 40 associations, including the most prominent, active and successful advocacy groups in the country: TM, Maroc 2020, Alternatives, Afak, the AMDH and the OMDH and Morocco's two most effective women's rights groups, the Democratic Association of Moroccan Women (ADFM) and the Union for Women's Action (UAF). Also affiliated with the CIACC is Espace Associatif, a structure of coordination and cooperation among NGOs that was formed in December 1996.

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Media and Government Regulations

A 1958 decree gives the government the authority to register and license publications. Morocco’s Press Law of 2002 gives the Ministry of Interior and the prime minister the power to supervise the Moroccan media. According to Article 29 of the law, the Prime Minister may order the suspension of a publication if it undermines Islam, the monarchy, national territorial integrity or public order. The new law reduced fines and jail terms for violations, simplified regulations for starting a new publication and required that reasons be given for the confiscation of a publication, but provisions allowing the detention of journalists in cases of defamation were not rescinded. Such clauses were used to shut down two papers in 2003, the French language Demain, and Arabic language Douman, when their editor was sentenced to three years in prison for articles severely critical of the monarchy.

The government owns the official press agency, Maghreb Arab Presse, the Radio-Television Marocaine (RTM), and the Arabic daily Al-Anbaa, which is available online. The government subsidizes the press through support for newsprint and office space. Satellite dishes are available at low cost and permit free access to a wide variety of foreign broadcasts.

The Moroccan radio market has more variety than most in the Arab world. Apart from state broadcaster RTM, there is the private radio station, Medi1. French and Spanish stations can also be heard. The government has said that it would encourage new private radio stations.

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