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Social media : The emergence of a fifth estate in Morocco

Social Media in Morocco has become more and more powerful leading to the emergence of a new fifth estate. After posting a set of short videos aka Snapshot stories on the internet, Hamza Derham got in police custody, an unexpected conclusion that was initiated by inetrnet users in Morocco.

Social media an emerging fifth estate in Morocco./Ph. DR
Estimated read time: 2'

Driving his fancy Ferrari in the streets of Rabat while posting Snapshot stories, Hamza Derham, was living «la vida loca» opening a bottle of champaign and dancing to loud music in a nightclub. The Rbati native was not aware of the consequences following his recklessness. His clips went viral on the Internet and an investigation on Facebook revealed his identity and put a new kind of pressure on Moroccan authorities.

«Monsieur le Constateur» became in one day the slogan of thousands of Internet users who went on the hunt for the rich and spoiled kid. Son of the owner of a gas distribution company and nephew of Rkia Derham, Secretary of State in the recently formed government, Hamza got arrested on the 19th of April merely 2 days after his scandalous video. Two other policemen were also held in custody for falsifying the proceedings of the accident. On the 8th of May, the Court of Rabat sentenced Hamza Derham to two years of prison and a MAD 20,000 fine.

Social Media as a fifth estate in Morocco

Hamza’s video has gone quickly viral on the Internet. People shared it on Facebook and Twitter and sent it to each other on WhatsApp, a phenomenon that is growing recently. Marouane Harmache, a social media expert told Yabiladi that «the first thing that initiated the wave against Hamza Derham was WhatsApp and not the classical social media platforms like Facebook, Twitter and YouTube. People afterwards discovered the video and started sharing it». «What really angered Moroccans is that they were fed up with the rich and spoiled kids on Instagram and Snapshot», explained Harmach. Seeing Hamza poking fun on the police and smoking a cigarette in the ambulance galvanized the need to speak against what seemed unfair for them.

«When the identity of the Ferrari driver was revealed it took another dimension and then the authorities reacted», the expert claimed. «A fifth estate is emerging these days and it is as powerful as the four other estates», Harmach pointed out referring to the use of social media in Morocco. Indeed, social media has contributed in revealing the identity of the reckless driver, it also created pressure on authorities to interfere and put an end to the situation. «Social media became a reflection of what Moroccans want and the digital public opinion now is imposing itself», he insisted.

Similar situations have occurred in the past with different people that were accused of corruption. Marouane Harmache recalled the «Sniper of Targuist» in 2008 who used to post videos on YouTube of corrupt Gendarmerie agents. «The trend began 9 years ago and it took different forms as technology developed and different social media platforms have emerged», Harmach concluded.

With the help of social media, Internet users were able to identify the Ferrari driver and contribute to his arrest. However, the police, led by Abdellatif Hammouchi head of the Moroccan secret services (DGST), reacted immediately to the case. In only two days, Hamza was behind the bars and in less than 30 days his sentence was pronounced regardless of his background. A new image that, Hammouchi is trying to construct with a new uniform and a new communicational method.

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