Wednesday, 23 July 2008
THE REPRESSION OF SPANISH JOURNALISTS CONTINUES IN MOROCCO
“Are you journalists? Spanish? Well, I’m going to have to ask you to come with me.” The speaker is Mehuimi Mohamed, the Dean of the Faculty of Law of the University of Oujda. Behind him are a number of agents of the Moroccan political police who cause him to cut his words short. The web of informers in the ghetto of Oujda have clearly already spread word that there are Spanish journalists among the migrants hiding in the university. For months now, the dean of the University of Oujda has given sanctuary to migrants on their voyage to Spain. In these public facilities they wait for an opportunity to cross the water by boat or to try to jump the fence into Melilla. The dean has not allowed the police access to the campus on humanitarian grounds. The grounds housed over 200 Subsaharan migrants. This is Morocco’s big secret in its conversations with Spain – the migrants are in hiding within spitting distance of the palace where José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero met King Mohammed VI two weeks ago to strengthen ties of cooperation. Morocco’s wish to hide what happens there resulted in two Spanish journalists being detained for over six hours and interrogated. Authorities also tried to delete their pictures and other visual proof, but these were later retrieved thanks to the help of information technology.
These words begin an article in the magazine “Interviú” – “THE GHETTO THAT MOROCCO IS HIDING FROM ZAPATERO” –published in this week’s issue. A journalist and a cameraman were detained for hours by the Moroccan Political Police, and were subjected to a harsh interrogation and incommunicado detention, without access to a lawyer, and also had the images they had taken in a public place (the Faculty of Law in Oujda) removed from them.
Some weeks earlier, a Spanish photographer working for a prominent agency in Rabat received a serious beating from the Auxiliary Forces; the authorities also confiscated his camera while he was covering a public action in front of the Parliament.
Weeks before that a number of Spanish correspondents were subjected to pressure and threats, to the point that the correspondent for La Vanguardia and La Cadena Ser had to leave Morocco with her family.
A further interesting coincidence is that a day after the journalists from Interviú had their run-in with the authorities, a Belgian journalist passed through Melilla. He was writing a piece on immigration and had just come from the Faculty in Oujda where he had had no problem interviewing or photographing the immigrants seeking refuge there.
Some weeks earlier a German photographer was able to take photographs of the fence around Melilla from the Moroccan side with only minimal interference from Moroccan security forces
It seems that the Moroccan government only likes those Spaniards who arrive with a press badge that says “international cooperation” and a briefcase under one arm.