SPAIN. “¿Journalist?, you are not allowed in. We have restrictions until new order”. This is how one Spanish journalist tells about his latest visit to the Spanish border with Morocco, in the neighbouring city of Ceuta. It’s been about a week now since the Moroccan officials at the border started interrupting the entry of Spanish journalists to Morocco, arguing that they have “orders to do so” from Rabat, as local daily Ceuta al día states.
This comes to place weeks after the violent raids at the Sahrawi camps in Western Sahara, where at least 12 people were killed according to Moroccan officials.`
As spanish daily newspapers El PAIS and EL MUNDO informed then, Moroccan government, not pleased with the way Spanish media was covering the event, made it difficult for the journalists to move in the area, and even deported some of them out of the country. As an example of some of the news that Morocco said were untrue is the case of various Sahrawis which denounced torture at Laayoune, facts that contradict the official Moroccan version.
Following this, Morocco issued a press release charging against Spanish media for their “tendentious” informations, although at the end of this note alleged that “journalists enjoy freedom of movement in the country”.
The conflict between Spanish press and Moroccan government has now reached Strasburg, where last thursday the European Parliament approved a Resolution of “strong condemn” against the violent events taken place in Western Sahara, asking for a UN Independent Inquiry into the situation, calling also on the Moroccan authorities to allow free access for press and observers to the area.
Spanish Federation of Journalists Associations (FAPE), together with 14 media channels from the country have signed a joint statement criticising Moroccan informative procedures relating all news connected with Western Sahara. They argue that this is a “serious attack” to the freedom of the press and it concerns not only to journalists, but to all citizens since they prevent them from receiving “independent” information.
While Spanish press is not allowed in Morocco, Moroccan national news agency, MAP, informed last week of the visit, today monday, of a group of Moroccan journalists to Ceuta (Spain), organised by the Mediterranean Club of the press. In the press release, MAP calls Ceuta “occupied city”, and explains that the objective of this visit is for the foreign journalists to establish contact with the Muslim community (around 40% of the population of the city) living in this “occupied prison”.
“Spain Welcomes you”, says Jose Luis, one of the reporters that hasn´t been allowed to enter Morocco during the last week, even though he actually lives in a small Moroccan town very close to the border. He is married with a Moroccan woman and they have two children together, but so far he can´t go back to his home due to the Moroccan ban on Spanish press.
Laayoune is hundreds of kilometres away from the Spanish border with Morocco. Hundreds of people continue to cross daily through the border point of ‘El Tarajal’. But when will this Spanish journalist be able to return home, and all his colleagues move freely in the neighbour country?