Question: Mr. Hajji, you recently published Birth of the Moroccan National Press, that you dedicated to the literary figure and journalist, Said Hajji. Does this book intend to better know Said Hajji? Or the national press? Or both?
Answer: This book which I titled Said Hajji ; Birth of the Moroccan National Press in Arabic aims to revive the memory of one of the precursors of the National Movement, who was part of the first group of pioneers of this movement on the occasion of the sixtieth year since he passed away.
The objective of this publication is to be frank not about learning about the national press in its entirety, that is a topic for historians. Rather it sheds light on a particular period of the history of the national press written in Arabic during its birth with emphasis on the vanguard role played by Said Hajji in the 1930s.
During this period, Said rallied with a small group of friends to fight for freedom of the press which he regarded as a tool to awaken Moroccans to their identity, to spread the message about the need for reform across society and to lay the foundations for a literary and cultural revival inside our country.
His goal was to open the doors of the press during an era where public freedoms were totally absent under the direct regime of the Protectorate Administration that was imposed as that time.
The publication of this book aims therefore to awaken the collective memory which seems to fade with the passage of years and succeeding decades so that the current generation of young people can be informed about the remarkable work done by their elders and about the distinguished services they provided to their nation.
We have attempted in the first part of this edition to furnish some biographical references that could be considered like highlights of a life that only lasted within "the span of a morning," and provide some of his literary writings along with a selection of his journalistic output and all exchanges of correspondence we were able to gather.
We dedicated the second part of this work to all that was said and written after the precocious death of Said who left us when he was barely thirty years old.
The reader will see, across the milestones that Said traversed in his militant life how his character was formed and the circumstances from where it emerged. They will see how he was the fruit of his time that ripened under the parallel influences of his family upbringing on his moral and patriotic development and by the political events that shook Morocco as well as by the economic and social state of affairs that he observed and analyzed with respect to incidents that affected the living standards of the population.
Question: What do you think about the rarity of writings and publications that recount our history and freshen our memory?
Answer: Contrary to what has been written about the rarity of studies and works that treat the Moroccan nationalist movement, one can say that they are not relatively speaking as rare when we take into consideration all that has been published about this topic in Morocco and abroad.
Among the principal references in this area, there are the works published by Allal El Fassi, Mohammed Ben Hassan Wazzani, Haj Ahmed Maâninou, Abou Bakr Kadiri, Ahmed El Jabri, Mohammed Zniber and many others. In addition, there are University theses, scientific seminars such as the one recently held with collaboration of the High Commission of Veterans and the Army of Liberation in which an elite group of professors attended because of their interest in analyzing and dissecting the history of the national movement.
With the exception of writings of renowned historians like Dr. Mohammed Zniber, the rest characteristically can be said to represent a panoply of viewpoints largely subjective which often look at events from a narrow partisan or regional perspective. Hence for example the controversy surrounding the book by Abdelkrim Ghallab, The History of the Moroccan National Movement, a controversy in which Dr. Zniber took part that could be considered as an example of how to pursue an impartial and objective critique of the facts and events that related to the history of the national movement.
Meanwhile one must recognize that what is currently being published in the columns of the Moroccan press of all persuasions, provide new accounts to the contemporary history of our country which, from independence to our present day, remained captive to the memories of only a few actors and eyewitnesses to the events of interest or hidden in public or private libraries be they in Morocco or abroad.
The time has come for our country to recover its historical memory through the documents that are in the hands of either the families of pioneers or the pioneers themselves of the national movement or what can be found in the libraries and archives of other countries who may hold untold documents and information. The latter could include political and diplomatic reports, the correspondences preserved in central archives such as Nantes, Paris, Aix-en-Provence and Nancy for what is there in France as well as in other European cities such as The Hague, Brussels, Madrid and Lisbon.
Question: Since the book is a crucible for the Moroccan national press how would you evaluate the state of affairs of today's press compared to that of yesterday?
Answer: The circumstance for today's press are different from those during the time of the protectorate. The era in which we live today has the advantage of enjoying the political freedoms which are also the origins of other freedoms that yesterday's Morocco could only aspire to including that of the press.
In an article titled: Our need for liberty Said Hajji had this to say on this topic:
"Today's Morocco is a civilized nation that allows citizens to be fully aware of their rights and allows them to be able to understand their obligations so as to not neglect them."
The press is considered currently as a given among givens achieved by the Moroccan citizen thanks to his resistance against the past's repressive measures and thanks also to his tenacity in front of the obstacles that were placed between him and the light of success. Moreover it is also a given within our legal framework that guarantees the freedom of expression and the opportunity to subject the negative aspects of our society and manifestations of its under development to objective criticism both of which can be harmful to Moroccan society.
In a speech given in one of the meetings organized by the National Action Committee around the middle of the 1930s in support of the grievances project to be submitted to attention of the appropriate authorities, Said asked a series of questions on what he called
"the abnormal wrongful acts, the frequently repeated injustices, the permanent harassment that one can not tolerate who calls for the right to dignity and consideration."
He also wrote in particular
"What country is this where it is deprived of a free press to defend its interests, to clarify its orientation and its perspectives?"
"What country is this where associations are non-existent and are not authorized to form no matter their objectives?"
"What country is this where nationals are sent to prison individually or collectively without having committed the slightest offense?"
"What country is this where corruption has become the only means to get the most typical things done or to perform some productive task.?"
And following the questions he raised, he cries out in a fit of pique:
"Gentlemen of Morocco the ills of Morocco are legion. The ills of Morocco, my friends, are vile and too numerous. The time has come to denounce them. The time has come to spread their images and to publish their chronicles. The time has come to record them and present them to the entire world so it can see the era of decline and injustice in which lives our nation as well as the type of treatment it is subjected to. The world must witness the rot that gnaws this nation's body and realize where it is headed with leaps and bounds."
The difference between yesterday and today is enormous. In an article where Said attempted to evaluate the state of affairs of the national press, he wrote:
"The national press operates in a backward environment. The nation sees in administrative bickering an attack on one of its most sacred rights."
Fortunately this is no longer the case today even if the current situation in which the national press operates requires a renewal in its operational processes and in its legal framework including the rights and obligations of the journalists. This implies an in depth revision of all aspects of the journalistic profession from its professional ethics to its accuracy and the guarantee of the freedom of speech which must be accorded to journalists without any contest as the late King, Mohammed V concisely stated:
"Information is sacred, commentary is free."