The Blogoma Strikes Again

At approximately 11:00 GMT on March 18, a blogger announced that Fouad Mourtada, the young Moroccan engineer imprisoned last month for impersonating Morocco's Prince Moulay Rachid, had been released. Shortly after, Global Voices Advocacy became the first English source to break the news. For the next few hours, bloggers continued to release commentary, while major news sources remained silent. It wasn't until the next morning that BBC News became the first major source to reference Mourtada's release, while still providing precious few details.

This isn't the first time that the blogoma (Moroccan blogging community) has broken a story before the media; last year, when popular video site YouTube was mysteriously blocked in Morocco, the media picked up on the story after a blogger reported on it.

Incidentally, Mourtada's family has kept in close communication with bloggers (and, ironically, through a Facebook community), encouraging them to protest Mourtada's imprisonment. Although no one knows how bloggers first came upon the story (though it is clear that the information hit the web from Morocco), what is clear is that Mourtada's family played a role in quickly publicizing the information.

The fact that the story hasn't broken through a Moroccan outlet is, of course, unsurprising. Although Fouad Mourtada was granted a royal pardon, his crime - mimicking a member of the royal family - is a grave one in Morocco. And since he was clearly a scapegoat, Moroccan journalists will tread lightly for quite some time.

But the way in which this story has been reported is also simply a sign of the times. With blogs so widespread and widely read and a growing distrust of traditional media, we should expect to see plenty more stories like this one.

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About Jillian York

Jillian York is a freelance writer who focuses on the MENA region, with an emphasis on Morocco. After graduating with a BA in Sociology from Binghamton University, Jillian volunteered with AmeriCorps before moving to Morocco to teach English for two years. Since 2005, Jillian has maintained The Morocco Report, a blog about Moroccan politics and culture, and currently covers Moroccan and Palestinian blogs for Global Voices Online. She is also the author of a Culture Smart! Morocco, a guide to Moroccan customs and writes for INTHEFRAY Magazine. Jillian is particularly interested in the effort to promote citizen media from countries which are given a negative focus in the Western media.

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