Students on our program. Photo by Karis Hustad, a senior at Loyola University. Look for Karis' reflections from Morocco on Minnesota Public Radio on-line and regularly in the Minneapolis Star Tribune on-line travel section.
Twelve American journalism students, mentored by Round Earth’s veteran journalists, will spend almost four months in Morocco, learning from Moroccan experts, academics, and activists while reporting on this country which is being called a “key U.S. ally” in a volatile region. Some of our students are majoring in journalism, others in academic subjects ranging from geography to philosophy – all are immersed in life here, living with familes in Rabat’s ancient medina.
What a great time and place to explore issues of free speech, press rights, the power of social media and the importance of journalism ethics and accurate reporting – not to mention the chance to report on Islamic movements, gender issues, the environment, economy, art and culture.
What do we conclude about this week’s protests from our perch in Morocco? There were non-violent protests in Casablanca on Wednesday and after prayers on Friday in Sale (Rabat’s twin town across a river), but the weekend has been quiet and Morocco is once again proving its “exceptionalism.” Writing in the New York Times, Harvey Morris says this “North African kingdom is regarded by the United States and Europe as an island of stability in a sea of troubles.”
Morocco may be relatively stable but it is not a democracy. In Morocco, the press, the government and the economy are controlled by the king and his coterie. More than half of all Moroccan women can neither read nor write. One in two young people are unemployed. While Morocco has avoided an Arab Spring revolution and the chaos that’s engulfing its neighbors, this country still faces enormous challenges. Many Moroccans live squalid and difficult lives.
Their stories are waiting to be told.