By Salaheddine Lemaizi
Drid Belarbi is a teacher and rugby coach in the town of Tinghir (470km and 8 hours from the capital Rabat). Following a disagreement with the management of his school, he was suspended. This decision caused indignation in his town and among his students. The information was to remain in the circle of this small town in south-eastern Morocco, but the story was published by the independent Arabic-speaking digital media company Hawamich (The Margins).
“This content was met with an unprecedented response. We had more than 790,000 views in a few days,” says one of the founding members. It had an impact at regional and national levels. “The teacher was finally able to return to his school. It was a victory for the inhabitants of this forgotten town. This story reinforces our editorial and technological choices”, says the Hawamich journalist. One year after its launch, this innovative platform continues its work of civic journalism.
Impact and citizen engagement
“Hawamich is a news website specialising in issues of marginalised areas that are not often covered in the Moroccan media, with an independent editorial principle based on proximity and investigation. This is how this news platform, created in 2021, presents itself. Hawamich tells stories of the daily life of the population. The articles are written in a style that puts the person at the centre of the journalistic content, with a simple and descriptive style. “This choice is not only based on a pragmatic approach to find an audience, but above all, we are looking for impact by mobilising citizen engagement on our digital platforms”, explained the founding member of Hawamich.
This commitment translates into a unique editorial proposal in the Moroccan media landscape. This platform has five objectives.
The first is the coverage of marginalised topics/areas. “For us, it is about being the voice of the local population and consolidating the principles of local democracy,” according to a member of the editorial team.
The second objective is to encourage and stimulate citizen engagement. “By covering the stories of villagers and people in the rural areas, we promote the participation of citizens who are not on the radar of central politics,” he argues.
The third objective is to promote civic and community journalism through solutions-based journalism: “We do several stories on local initiatives working with people with disabilities or rural women. Hawamich thus aspires to play an active role in local development in partnership with civil society”, argues the journalist.
The fourth objective is to raise awareness and defend gender equality and minority rights. “To achieve this goal, we have created a specific section on women and gender issues. This is an essential objective for us, especially when we address and talk to women in rural areas,” he says.
Digitalisation to get closer to people
To achieve these objectives, the Hawamich team uses digital tools, while considering the local context. “Our content combines text, images, videos, maps and data,” according to the founding member. He added: “We chose to produce multimedia content on all social networks because it allows us to reach our target audience, which is mainly on Facebook.”
This technological choice allows Hawamich to attract a rapidly growing audience, despite its limited resources and staff. The media produces videos, podcasts, and a show on its YouTube channel, all in the local dialect: “Our readers come from the Amazigh regions and do not always read Arabic. By speaking to them in the dialect, we can reach them.” After the launch period, the challenge is now to continue this project of free, independent, and innovative journalism.
Reporting supported by a micro-grant from Jamlab
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