Reporters Without Borders denounces the relentless Moroccan persecution of Sahrawi journalists

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  • Reporters without borders requires Morocco to allow the international press to enter Western Sahara
  • Urges the Moroccan Government to guarantee fair judicial processes for Sahrawi journalists and respect for their physical and psychological integrity
  • Exercising journalism in the Spanish ex-colony is an “act of heroism” and its protagonists pay with arbitrary detentions, harassment of their families, torture, unjust sentences and jail
  • Reporters WB asks Spain and France to break their usual “complicit silence” with Morocco

Alfonso Lafarga / Contramutis .- Reporters Without Borders (RWB) has denounced the persecution suffered by Sahrawi journalists by Morocco, which handles with “iron hand” the information in Western Sahara, punishes “relentlessly” the exercise of local journalism and blocks access of foreign media.

RWB requires Morocco to allow the international press to enter Western Sahara, with freedom of movement through the territory, and put an end to the expulsion of journalists, while urging the Moroccan Government to guarantee fair judicial processes for the Saharawi journalists imprisoned, with whom the demands of the UN regarding their release must be met.

RWB, which promotes and defends the freedom to inform and be informed in the world, asks Morocco to comply with the Convention against Torture of the United Nations and respect the physical and psychological integrity of Sahrawi journalists, at the same time requesting respect to fundamental rights in Western Sahara, “including freedom of expression and information, which guarantee not only the right of Saharawi journalists to exercise free journalism, but the right of Saharawi citizens to receive plural and truthful information” .

These denunciations and demands are contained in the first world report on the situation of press freedom in Western Sahara, “one of the most arid places in the world for information and journalism”, carried out by the Spanish section of RWB and its author Edith R. Cachera, rapporteur and correspondent of RWB in Spain. Presented on June 11, 2019 in the Press Association of Madrid (APM), has had the participation of the president of Madrid journalists, Victoria Prego; of the president of RWB Spain, Alfonso Armada; of the president of the Federation of Associations of Journalists of Spain (FAPE), Nemesio Rodríguez, and of the Saharawi journalist Ahmed Ettanji, founder and president of the Equipe Média collective.

The report analyzes in detail the persecution suffered by Saharawi journalists by Morocco, which ranks 135th out of the 180 countries and territories analyzed by the RWB World Press Freedom Classification: “This terrible position, which places the Alaui kingdom among the most disastrous countries for journalism, is partly due to the iron hand that applies to journalists from “annoying” territories, such as the Rif – whose protests were settled two years ago, with serious consequences for local reporters that covered them – and Western Sahara. ”

The complicit silence of Spain and France

RWB also addresses the European Union, “and especially the governments of Spain and France,” so that they “break their usual complicit silence with Morocco and condemn the repression of Sahrawi journalists.”

The report, which takes a historical tour of the last colony of Africa, abandoned by Spain and occupied by Morocco more than 43 years ago, exposes the names and circumstances of Saharawi journalists sentenced to prison terms, as well as the gag imposed on them as well as to local and foreign informants. Five Saharawi informants serve high sentences in Moroccan prisons, one of them imprisoned for life; another was released on May 7 after four years in prison.

RWB includes the analysis of several journalists, both Spaniards and Saharawi origin, that affect the silence of the press in Spain, exposing that Portugal, with a much more modest press, has shown more sensitivity towards ex-colonies like East Timor than it can show the Spanish press with the Sahara, which is almost nil.

There is also a criticism of the Polisario Front, the Sahrawi liberation movement, which is said to be “based on propaganda slogans that have changed very little since the aesthetics of the 70s”, its language is not attractive to some media and some social networks that demand stories that go beyond mere political slogan.

The journalists consulted feel a lack of an active communication department in the Saharawi Delegation for Spain, and a communicative strategy of both the Sahrawi authorities and the solidarity movement with the Sahara.

Journalists in hiding

RWB says that despite the severe repression of Morocco and the silence of the international media, “a new generation of Saharawi reporters runs extraordinary risks to keep alive the flame of journalism and prevent Western Sahara from being buried by the sands of oblivion”: They raffle the iron-fisted Moroccan control and organize underground to tell what the Government of Rabat does not want to be known.

It is done by groups of informants such as Equipe Média or Smara News, who record from the rooftops and, with a meticulous organization, disseminate their work on the Internet in Spanish, French, English and Arabic.

Exercising journalism in Western Sahara is “an act of heroism”, whose protagonists pay with arbitrary detentions, harassment of their families, defamation, torture, imprisonment and “sentences as bulky, as unfair”, according to Reporters Without Borders, which counts that Sahrawi journalists are accused of increasingly “creative” alleged crimes – accusation against journalist Nazha El Khalidi of practicing the profession without an official title – to “torpedo any hint of continuity in the exercise of their profession” and lock them up “with partial and cumbersome judicial processes in between. ”

In this context, the Saharawi journalists have obtained the recognition of numerous international media and organizations, which already use them as the main source of information for Western Sahara.

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