French Media’s Anti-Morocco Sentiment Critiqued Amid Earthquake Coverage
“There has been an anti-Morocco sentiment in the French press since the 1950s, stemming from its predominantly left-leaning orientation, even among publications owned by Bolloré,” said Guillaume Jobin, a medical psychology graduate, medical doctor, author, and former president of the Paris School of Journalism (ESJ), about French media’s coverage of the earthquake that struck several regions in Morocco, claimed nearly 3,000 lives and received significant national and international media attention.
This came in an interview about the French press’s politicization of the crisis and questioning Morocco’s sovereign decisions regarding disaster relief efforts. Much of the press’ behavior surrounding the earthquake was seen by Moroccans as lacking in sympathy for the human tragedy and a sign of disrespect towards Morocco’s expertise in emergency response.
Emmanuel Macron’s tweet on September 12 addressing the Moroccan people directly further fueled tension and was perceived by many as an invasive and disrespectful action towards Moroccans.
In the interview, Jobin describes the French press as having a tendency for journalists to come across as know-it-all. Journalists often interrupt their interviewees, leading to what seems like one-sided conversations due to the lack of credible analysts. Additionally, Jobin asserts that many French journalists do not visit the affected areas, interact with the victims, and consult genuine experts on a given topic.
When French news outlets cover Morocco, Jobin claims that they often rely on stereotypes. In the case of the recent earthquake, it seems that many journalists have focused only on the negative aspect related to aid offered to Morocco, presenting the country as relatively underdeveloped.
Jobin outlines the problem being exacerbated by various center-left media outlets which covered the topic in a similar manner. This uniformity in coverage is driven by a fear of being overrun by competitors. Even when there is valuable information, editors and editors-in-chief tend to hold back, resulting in a uniform approach to news, which Jobin criticizes.
Jobin also criticized the tendency of French media to rely on so-called “pseudo-expert” journalists familiar with Morocco, neglecting genuine professionals and experts on the country, and he specifically named Hubert Coudurier from the Télégramme de Brest, Jean-Didier Derhy from Progrès de Lyon, and Jobin himself.
The ex-president of the ESJ added that there are two types of countries that the left-leaning press dislikes: Arab, or rather, Muslim countries (since using “Arab” has racist connotations), and theocratic states. Among the Arab countries, Morocco is often targeted for ideological reasons: it is a monarchy, theocracy, aligned with the Western bloc during the Cold War, and it has a bourgeoisie.
According to Jobin, in the minds of some French journalists, Morocco is seen as a half-democracy, or not a democracy at all, with manipulated elections, but EU observers ensure fair results, he said, adding that Morocco is also one of the few Arab countries with a centuries-old bourgeoisie. The combination of these factors makes Morocco something that the French press would not particularly favor.
The former president went on to say that before Macron, there was more balance in the national approach to Morocco, with more center or right-leaning presidents balancing out the left-leading press outlets.
“It’s important to note that 1 million native French people have some connection to Morocco, not to mention French-Moroccans and the 200,000 French permanent residents in Morocco,” Jobin said.
He pointed out that the French international policy today combines ideological positions with financial interests, as many countries refused to deal with France. However, he said, “only Morocco has never said no to a partnership or business opportunity with me or the school.”
Today, France’s Arab policy primarily revolves around the United Arab Emirates and somewhat around Iraq with the nuclear power plant project.
“Macron has done everything he shouldn’t,” expressed Jobin. He concluded that the Elysée has deliberately turned away from France’s traditional “Africa” policy and Macron is pursuing complete alignment with the US, the Atlantic pact, and international finance due to the failure of Franco-German cooperation.
Furthermore, not only is the core of Europe’s cooperation at a standstill, but Macron has also failed to manage his relationship with Russia in the Ukraine conflict, unlike Germany. Observers also note that he was humiliated during his visit to China.
Jobin concludes his interview by returning to Macron’s recent Twitter statement addressing the Moroccan people directly, bypassing diplomatic norms, escalated tensions with Morocco. Analysts point to Macron’s controversial behavior, disrespect toward international leaders, and perceived megalomaniacal tendencies as reasons for his failure in the international diplomacy realm.
This situation may only be resolved through a change in the French presidency. The issue goes beyond the Sahara dispute and highlights broader concerns about Macron’s demeanor and France’s current Arab policy.