BFM TV, one of the main French 24-hour news channels, is under investigation for suspected interference by Morocco. The channel is alleged to have broadcast unapproved content on sensitive subjects such as Morocco, but also Sudan, Qatar, and Russian oligarchs.
A few weeks ago, the news directorate was informed of the presence of suspicious content detected in the nightly programmes. The management then decided to review the numerous news programmes broadcast in 2022 through an internal audit, which revealed that on several occasions, information was broadcast without having been checked by the channel’s usual control circuits. Short reports, comments, or images were deemed “problematic,” not “in keeping with BFM’s line,” in the words of Hervé Béroud, director of information for the Altice Media group to which BFM TV belongs. One programme in particular is under attack: Le journal de la nuit, which is usually broadcast at midnight. The exact origin of the information in question has not yet been identified.
The presenter Rachid M’Barki is explicitly targeted by the investigation. M’Barki, who has been with the channel since its launch in 2005, was removed from the channel in mid-January. When questioned, he admitted having “used information that [he] received from informants” and that “did not necessarily follow the usual editorial process.” However, he denied any malicious intent behind this practice and defended himself by referring to his journalistic ethics. For him, the information was all “real and verified.” “I do my job. I’m not ruling anything out, maybe I was fooled, I didn’t feel that was the case or that I was part of some kind of operation or I wouldn’t have done it,” he added.
A report on the Dakhla economic forum, held in Morocco in June 2022, caught the attention of investigators because of the way it addressed relations between Morocco and Spain. According to Politico, even though no serious Spanish investors showed up at the forum, the report presents the initiative as a sign of “warming diplomatic relations” between Spain and Morocco, facilitated, it says, by “Spanish recognition of the Moroccan Sahara.” This expression is unusual in the French media. The situation of Western Sahara is at the heart of a serious diplomatic crisis, and France has a position of neutrality on the subject. Choosing the anything-but-neutral expression ‘Moroccan Sahara’ means explicitly taking sides with Morocco, even though no country formally recognises Rabat’s sovereignty over the former Spanish colony that Morocco seized in 1975.
By going back in time in the course of the investigation, the links of Rachid M’Barki with the Moroccan government became clearer. In July 2019, M’Barki was invited to a celebration of the 20th anniversary of the King of Morocco’s accession to the throne. In a video shot on the occasion by a media outlet close to Moroccan power, he explained: “I try to act in my own way at my small level to make Morocco shine.” At the time, he was already a well-known presenter on BFM TV.
The suspicion of Moroccan interference in the BFM TV team naturally resonates with the scandal that is currently shaking the European Parliament, which is suspected of being subject to foreign interference from Qatar, but also from Morocco. As far as Morocco is concerned, the problem is not new. The Moroccan government has long cultivated extensive and solid networks within the French political and media elite. In his book Maroc, enquêtes interdites (Nouveau monde, 2021), Omar Brouksy, former AFP correspondent in Rabat, already highlighted these dangerous links between French elites and Moroccan power, deploying a strategy designed to ‘protect’ the image of the monarchy and defend the political and diplomatic biases of the king of Morocco.
For the general manager of the channel, Marc-Olivier Fogiel, the diagnosis is in any case clear: “We have been massively swindled, and it hurts the channel.”