Saturday, May 30, 2009

Breaking the Moroccan Media Embargo on News from the Western Sahara

Here is an article from ANSAmed, a Mediterranean focused press agency about the Western Saharan TV station RASD-TV, trying to get its message past Moroccan censors.



(by Laura De Santi) (ANSAmed)
- ALGIERS - The Polisario Front, which for over 30 years has continued to fight for independence for the Sahrawi people in the Western Sahara has not showed any signs of surrender. While they have not ruled out a return to arms if negotiations fail yet again, they have now launched a media battle with the first Sahrawi TV station, RASD-TV. The new station aims ''to break the media embargo imposed by Morocco'' and ''show the suffering of the Sahrawi people to the world''.

Inaugurated by the self-proclaimed President of the Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic (RASD), Mohamed Abdelaziz, RASD-TV broadcasts from Chahid El Hafed. The station's headquarters has just been completed in one of the five refugee camps in Tindouf in the Algerian Sahara, where about 150,000 Sahrawi people have lived since 1975, after fleeing during the occupation of the former Spanish colony by Morocco. RASD TV ''can be seen in the Maghreb, including Morocco, and throughout Africa, as well as in Western Europe and the Middle East,'' said the station's manager, Mohamed Salem Ahmed Laabeid, to ANSAmed. After press agency SPS, ''this new means of information aims to demonstrate the Sahrawi cause to the world,'' added Laabeid, ''to break the media embargo imposed by Morocco and to provide a realistic view of the serious ongoing situation in the occupied territories.''

News, reports on life in refugee camps, interviews, and historical documentaries will be broadcast daily via satellite and digital cable. An archive of past videos will also be on the Internet, including the self-proclamation of the RASD on February 27 1976, and commercials in favour of the Sahrawi people's cause, with appearances by celebrities such as Javier Bardem, Penelope Cruz, Pedro Almodovar, and Manu Chao. This new ''media weapon will defend the just cause of the Sahrawi people until the inalienable rights of self-determination and independence are obtained,'' underlined the RASD President.

The RASD is a member of the African Union (of which only Morocco is not a member) and is currently recognised by almost 90 countries, but by no Western states. In the view of the UN, which has been in the region since 1991 with MINURSO (United Nations Mission for the Referendum in the Western Sahara) to monitor the ceasefire with Rabat, the Western Sahara is ''not an autonomous territory''. Numerous UN resolutions have reiterated the right of the Sahrawi people's independence, but there have been few tangible developments due to Morocco's close Western allies, most notably France and the United States. Negotiations led by the UN, at a standstill since March 2008, should resume in the coming month in an attempt to resolve an issue that continues to divide the Maghreb.

Rabat is willing to grant broad autonomy to the Sahrawi people, but only while remaining under its sovereignty. The Polisario Front, which is backed by Algeria, continues to call for a referendum of independence. If the fifth round of negotiations fails, Sahrawi authorities have already announced that ''we will have no other alternative than to resume the war''. (ANSAmed).

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