Cablegate: Bbg Delegation and Moroccan High Authority For


DE RUEHRB #2157/01 2911403
R 181403Z OCT 05





E.O. 12958: N/A

REF: A.Rabat 1498; B.Rabat 1893

1. SUMMARY In two October 4, 2005 meetings mission, BBG and
GOM representatives reviewed the history of Radio Sawa
broadcasting in Morocco and agreed on a solution to the
licensing impasse. The GOM granted Radio Sawa seven
frequencies on an exceptional basis in 2003 before the
current radio licensing procedure had been established.
Radio Sawa is the only radio station to miss the six month
grace period August 2 deadline to regularize its license.
The agreement reached in the meetings to create on a shell
company (a legal shell, "une coquille juridique") that will
take into account the fact that Sawa is not a commercial
entity, yet satisfy the GOM legal requirements, and the
agreement to complete paperwork by October 31 represents a
substantial step toward regularizing Radio Sawa's
broadcasting license in Morocco.

2. The Ambassador and a BBG delegation composed of John
Bowen, Senior Advisor to the Director of BBG Engineering;
David Strawman, BBG Tangier Morocco Director; Darrel
Duckworth, Morocco Critical Broadcast Systems Support
office; and Larbi Khassouni, BBG Tangier staff held two
meetings to discuss Radio Sawa licensing in Rabat on 4
October 2005: one with the Moroccan Minister of
Communication Nabil Benabdallah and one with President Ahmad
Ghazali of the Broadcast Media Council and its regulatory
arm the High Authority for Broadcast Media (Haute Autorite
de la Communication Audiovisuelle hereafter "HACA"). The
Counselor for Public Affairs was note taker.

3. In a brief meeting, Minister of Communicatin Nabil
Benabdallah recapped his role in the creation of Radio Sawa
and confirmed that this is now a HACA issue. Mr. Bowen and
Mr. Strawman thanked the Minister for past and continuing
cooperation. (Note: BBG recently granted the Ministry/RTM
eight radio transmitters.) Minister Benabdallah noted that,
at the King's behest, he had moved to authorize the initial
seven Radio Sawa frequencies in 2003. "At that time there
was only a text of the Audio-Visual Law (which established
HACA). We knew that we could have problems because other
stations like BBC, Radio Monte Carlo, and RFI had also
applied to the Ministry of Communication. And, yes, there
were problems because the other stations asked us: Why
Radio Sawa and not us? It was difficult to respond to these

4. The Minister continued that now in 2005 there is a new
law which privatized the broadcast media sector, created
HACA, and spelled out the procedure for radio broadcast
license applications. All existing radio stations in
Morocco were given six months to comply, except for the
government-owned RTM which had been given a year. All have
complied except Sawa, whose six month deadline expired on 2
August 2005. (Note: BBG sent several communications to HACA
in a response to the new law, but all - including a
diplomatic note to the MFA which was never forwarded to HACA
- requested a special status based on the BBG/VOA bilateral
relation. There is no provision in the new law for such a
special bilateral status. The new law requires that radio
stations be constituted so as to be a company.)

5. The Minister of Communication said he was glad the U.S.
team would be seeing HACA where this issue could be worked
out amicably. "We will not impose on you program content;
we just need to know (in the application) percentages of
content type and language. If you want ten hours of news,
you can have it; if you want only two hours you can can have
it." It is important that the Sawa arrangement follow
faithfully the new legislation.

6. After eloquent mutual thank you's for cooperation, the
Minister asked if Radio Sawa was the same group as Hurra TV
(Mr. Bowen - yes) and if there was a chance that Al-Hurra
would be broadcast from Morocco (Mr. Bowen - it is
technically but not programmatically possible).

7. Mr. Ahmed Ghazali, President of HACA started his meeting
with a survey of the history of Radio Sawa in Morocco,
stressing that the unresolved regularization had made HACA
very uncomfortable. (Note: the day of the meeting a new
article, one of several accusing HACA of making special
exceptions for Sawa, appeared in "Le Journal.")

8. The president of HACA noted the series of discussions
about putting Radio Sawa in conformity with the law and the
lapse of the six month grace period on August 2, 2005. In
the meantime, the three other private radios in the same
situation had "normalized" their status. (Note: these three

are Medi-1 a 51% Moroccan 49% French company in Tangier; Ain
Chouck radio in Casablanca, and the Second Channel (2M)
Radio in Casablanca.) The government-owned RTM radio had
just finished its regularization under the new law the
previous day.

9. Mr. Ghazali continued: "We want to find the best
solution for Radio Sawa. HACA will help provide ways to
`conform in principle' to the new legislation. Ambassador
Riley thanked the president and said that BBG told him (the
Ambassador) last week in Washington that they were ready to
take prompt action to resolve the Sawa license issue. Mr.
Bowen said he was in Rabat to try to implement the new
broadcast media regulation. "We appreciate the patience of
HACA, and we want to listen to learn how to resolve the

10. Mr. Ghazali continued his review of history. On 31
August 2002 Morocco created HACA to privatize broadcast
media. In September 2002, a royal decree ended state
monopoly of broadcast media. Before that date only the
government could own radio and television and there were
only three exceptions (noted above) and these three
exceptions have created new private entities.

11. In the meantime, as HACA was being formed, on 15 August
2003, the Minister of Communication granted an exceptional
authorization for seven frequencies for Radio Sawa. Law
77.03 of 2 February 2005 ended the government monopoly of
broadcast media, liberalized and privatized the sector,
ended the old system of controlling programs initially,
changed to a principle of controlling programs afterwards (a
posteriori), and established principles governing broadcast.
These included freedom of communication, respect of human
dignity, reflection of a pluralistic society, and
organization of publicity and ads.

12. Mr. Ghazali stressed: "HACA is constrained by the law
and by public opinion. Our credibility must be established
so that we can function. Regarding Radio Sawa, we are aware
of its peculiarity. We know the entire dossier and from
October 2004 to October 2005 we have reviewed the dossier
twelve times in twelve different meetings." HACA is
accountable to be sure the law is applied. There is also
the matter of conformity. HACA received a dossier from
Radio Sawa which did not conform to the requirement that
Radio Sawa be a company incorporated under Moroccan law
(societe anonyme).

13. Mr. Ghazali continued: "From the second of August until
now it has been uncomfortable for Radio Sawa and for the
Moroccan government. We have been patient about the
situation but it is not in your or our interest to let this
continue. It has been very uncomfortable for HACA."

14. At this point there was a discussion to clarify the
procedures HACA expects. First Sawa must form a private
company which has a name, a headquarters and shareholders;
these can be foreign shareholders. It is easy to establish
a company, said Mr. Ghazali. It can be done in 48 hours.
Second, Sawa must fill out a dossier of papers which
describe the nature of the company, employees, program, etc.
Third, the newly formed company, "for example SAWA. S.A."
must request a license. HACA and Sawa will then negotiate a
contract or "cahier de charges." Once this is negotiated
HACA can grant a license.

15. The president of HACA recognized Moroccan laws did not
foresee the situation of Radio Sawa and that "Radio Sawa is
a different reality." HACA is willing to do everything it
can to facilitate paperwork for a Radio Sawa license in
conformity with the law.

16. Mr. Bowen responded: "What you have laid out is very
helpful. I have been empowered by the BBG to work towards a
resolution of this issue and to establish a shell

17. Mr. Ghazali replied: "If you do the application, the
role of HACA established by law and the obligations of Sawa
in Morocco can be codified in a way that is acceptable. We
know that Radio Sawa programs are formulated for regions of
the Middle East as well as Morocco. When we consider its
application we will ignore that particularity.

18. HACA board member Prof. Salah-Eddine el Ouadie asked to
speak and reiterated how important it is that the Sawa issue
be resolved "in conformity with Moroccan law." "HACA plays
an important institutional role in Morocco. Conformity of

Sawa with Moroccan law is not only of juridical value. It
is also of value to the general audiovisual environment."

19. President Ghazali said that it was necessary to have a
deadline, not as short as 48 hours but also not as long
three months. He suggested the end of October. Mr. Bowen
said that the deadline of the end of October is reasonable,
that he accepts HACA's offer of assistance with the
paperwork, and that his representative will be Mr. Strawman,
BBG Tangier Director. Mr. Ghazali appointed Prof. El-Hassan
Bouquentar as the point of contact from the HACA side, and
suggested that the first week of November would be a good
time for a ceremony. The Ambassador thanked HACA for its

20. COMMENT Clearly, Mr. Ghazali was under orders to achieve
this "regularization" as quickly as possible. The GOM does
not want any more bad press over the Radio Sawa anomaly. The
Minister of Communication told us that he had informally
"advised" HACA to help us but that HACA was an independent
entity with whom he had no formal communication. It is
clear that Radio Sawa can not be licensed via the BBG
bilateral agreements with the GOM. Formation of a company
with a "legal shell" ("une coquille juridique") is the next
critical step. We should hold to the October 31 deadline
for regularizing Sawa. BBG Tangiers has contacted a lawyer
to implement the shell company. Once that is done they will
meet with Prof El-Hassan Bouquentar (a former PAS
International Visitor) to finish the paperwork for a
license. Mr. Ghazali told us that HACA is already working
on a draft of the "cahier de charges" which is the last step
before licensing.


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