Funded by pro-Zemmour tycoon, Israeli channel I24News opens two offices in Morocco
The Israeli channel i24NEWS has opened two offices in Morocco, becoming the first Israeli media network to operate in the Moroccan kingdom.
On Tuesday, Franck Meloul, the executive director of the i24NEWS, inaugurated two offices; one of which is located in the capital Rabat, and the other in Casablanca, the biggest city in Morocco.
Meloul said the Morocco-based offices will allow the channel to "cover events from different angles and points of view, to expand and diversify [its] content offerings, and to dive into important and interesting stories”.
Established in 2013, i24NEWS also broadcasts from Tel Aviv, France, the US and, most recently, from the UAE.
i24News is funded by Patrick Drahi, a Morocco-born tycoon with three citizenships, French, Israeli and Portuguese. Drahi is an ambitious supporter of French far-right politician Eric Zemmour.
"Even before the signing of the normalisation agreements between Israel and Morocco, and in fact through the activities of i24NEWS over the past few years, we have seen that the channel has a loyal following in Morocco," said the executive director of the i24NEWS.
In December 2020, Morocco officially normalised ties with Israel under US auspices.
Since signing the US-brokered Abraham Accords, enhancing Moroccan-Israeli relations has become the two countries' diplomatic priority, as Morocco's Foreign Minister Nasser Bourita asserts that the "sky is the limit."
Rabat and Tel Aviv are now connected through direct flights, cultural activities and student exchanges. The two countries signed cooperation agreements in different sectors, including military training.
Despite opening the door for private investments in television broadcasting since 2006, the television sphere in Morocco remains widely controlled by state-owned channels.
In the past 15 years, Morocco's high authority of audiovisual has granted only one licence to a private channel to operate from Morocco. Named Medi 1 Tv, the channel has soon become semi-public and then state-owned last year.
Other Moroccan private channels have had to operate offshore as they failed to obtain a licence.
In 2021, Morocco's ministry of culture and communication announced that The National Company of Radio and Television (SNRT), a state-owned company, has controlled 2M and Medi1 Tv, the two biggest channels in Morocco that survived for years as semi-public organisations.
Moreover, the presence of international channels broadcasting from the kingdom remains thin.
In 2010, Moroccan authorities closed Al Jazeera office in Rabat "for violating professional standards," an accusation the media company has denied. Since then the Qatari channel kept only a few reporters in the country while the office remains closed until the day.