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Morocco Offers Seminar on W. Sahara, Targets Journalists, Off-Record?

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, June 13 -- How and through whom do countries try to fight off coverage and calls for human rights investigations or monitoring? This is a story of Morocco.

  Morocco went after the website of Ali Anouzla; it targeted Ignacio Cembrero of El Pais in Spain, both for publishing videos that are, by most counts, news.

  At the UN Morocco flashed a threat in April that it would throw the MINURSO mission out if human rights monitoring was added. But now it takes a more velvet glove approach. At the end of April, new Ambassador Omar Hilale reached out, for example to Inner City Press, promising a new approach. We covered, and will cover, this with an open mind.

And lo and behold today he approached again through a social secretary, with a dinner invitation. Inner City Press responded twice, "on the record"? But the response was that off the record is preferred. Why? What's the point?

  While more request will be made, we have already reported the above and an invitation sent to four correspondents including Inner City Press to a session at the end of June entitled “Regional Commissions of National Human Rights Councils in Autonomous Regions:Good Practices And Challenges.”

  It will feature, among others, Driss El Yazami of the National Human Rights Council of Morocco, "compare practices followed in some states with regard to the relationship between National Human Rights Councils (or Commissions) and  Regional Commissions acting in their autonomous or decentralized territories." Surely that is on the record - but why not before?

  The idea, clearly, is to argue that no human rights monitoring in MINURSO in Western Sahara is needed. Inner City Press didn't RSVP, and now old UNCA, Sri Lanka's government's partner and the UN's Censorship Alliance, has promoted Morocco's event.

  At the same time, French Ambassador Gerard Araud who was quoted by Spanish actor Javier Bardem calling Morocco France's mistress is belatedly leaving the UN, as Inner City Press reported the confirmation of on the morning of June 11 after first reporting it two month ago.

Old UNCA dragged its feet after Araud on April 15 told one of its dues paying members, “You are not a journalist, you are an agent.” The Free UN Coalition for Access asked UN spokesman Stephane Dujarric to convey to Araud and the French Mission the stated position that correspondents should be treated with respect, which Dujarric refused to do.

 Strange in a way that this was a cause, unlike Sri Lanka war crimes denial, that UNCA's board would not take up, since it could be turned on them. But UNCA is in decline: president Pamela Falk, for example, promoted an event in the same Dag Hammarskjold Library auditorium which was then declared "closed" and only for "a small group." UN-free Press? We'll have more on all this.


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