Photo Credit: Reuters.
March 23, 2020.
Three stories you need to read today. Compiled and broken down for you by Reporting Morocco student journalists — every day. Brought to you from the School for International Training’s journalism program, Rabat.
Source: The Washington Post
Lede/Introduction: The Fact Checker video team launched a three-part miniseries focused on stories from around the world where information online affected communities and people in real life.
Our final installment brings us to the disputed African territory of Western Sahara, where a video contradicts the Moroccan government’s justification for a brutal beating of two men. (The Moroccan government calls the area Moroccan Sahara or the Southern Provinces.)
Key Background: A disturbing video shows Elbatal and another man — Yahdhih El Ghazal — dragged from their truck and beaten by Moroccan police a couple of blocks away from the celebrations.
The Moroccan authorities justified the incident by claiming that the car Elbatal was in collided with police vehicles and that Elbatal resisted arrest. Therefore, they say that police used necessary force.
In collaboration with the UC Berkeley Human Rights Center Lab, the Fact Checker confirmed the video’s authenticity by comparing landmarks in the video to Google Earth satellite imagery. The video was taken June 9, a couple of blocks away from Lebsir’s reception. There are many features that suggest that the men beating Elbatal were police officers in plainclothes. Elbatal was surrounded by police vehicles, one man is wearing a police helmet, and at the end of the video, one of the men escorts a woman from the vehicle Elbatal was in to a police car.
Why this is newsworthy: This video provides evidence–verified by international human rights organizations–of the police brutality in the Western Sahara that the Moroccan government has long denied and/or obscured. It is providing an alternative way of drawing attention to continuing human rights violations in the Western Sahara when journalists there are suppressed by the Moroccan government. Human Rights Watch also confirmed and reported the authentification of this video yesterday.
Source: Morocco World News
Lede: Leaving the lonely confinements of the Dutch asylum center, Nawal Benaissa visited Amsterdam last weekend to talk about her experience as one of the most prominent faces of the Hirak-movement, which mobilized after the tragic death of fishmonger Mouhcine Fikri in 2016.
Key Background: At ‘De Balie’, a well-known Amsterdam-based center where people are provided with a platform to raise their voice, Benaissa opened the evening. “Thank you all for coming! Before we begin I would like to express my solidarity with our brothers and sisters in the Rif who have been imprisoned and continue with their hunger strike as we speak. We have not forgotten you.”
After the imprisonment of Nasser Zefzafi, who took to the streets after the death of Mouhcine Fikri and spearheaded the Hirak movement until his imprisonment in 2018, a void presented itself. Who did the people in the Rif look to, to fight for their demands of social services such as schools, hospitals, and infrastructure?
Why this is newsworthy: At the conference, Benaissa spoke about the Rif Hirak movement, her experience seeking asylum, and women’s rights, drawing particular attention to gender inequality in the Rif. While fellow protesters are currently on a hunger strike in Moroccan prison, her speaking out is a reminder of the current challenges Hirak organizers are facing and their ongoing struggle.
Source: Middle East Monitor
Lede: Moroccan media reported, on Wednesday, that Rabat has withdrawn its ambassador and consulates in the UAE, due to the Emirati authorities’ reluctance for a whole year to appoint an ambassador in Rabat to fill the vacancy.
Key Background: Media reports attributed the reason for this development, quoting an unnamed Moroccan official, to the position of the UAE’s failure to appoint an ambassador to Morocco for about a year.
Since the outbreak of the Gulf crisis in June 2017, when Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Bahrain cut diplomatic ties with Doha, the Moroccan-Emirati relations have witnessed an unprecedented weakness in ties, which has been noticed through many indicators.
Why this is newsworthy: While the “Moroccan media” referenced in the article is unclear, the message sent by Morocco’s withdrawal of its UAE ambassador is very clear. Mohamed Ait Ali, former Moroccan ambassador to Abu Dhabi, had been in office for more than nine years. The move is a clear rejection, according to the Middle East Monitor, of the UAE’s refusal to appoint new diplomatic representatives to Morocco. It also comes in the context of controversy over Morocco’s use of the Western Sahara city of Laayoune as a diplomatic center. What does this mean for Moroccan diplomacy?