Journalism from the rooftops to avoid arrests in the Sahara

Journalism from the rooftops to avoid arrests in the Sahara

"I work as an activist journalist in social networks to break the information blockade that Morocco has subjected to the population of Western Sahara for years," said the Saharawi Nazha al Khalidi, which will be judged on May 20 by the Moroccan authorities under the accusation of exercising the profession without title.

"We do the work from rooftops and clandestine places to avoid the difficulty of going out on the street with a camera and being arrested for filming a demonstration in a territory forbidden to international journalism," he said in an interview with Efe as he passed through Madrid Al Khalidi , 26 years old, member of the "Equipe Media" collective that is in Spain invited by the Association of Solidarity with Western Sahara in Seville.

"Equipe Media is a group composed of 25 young people who work at great risk and in hiding to give visibility to what happens to the Saharawi population" (in the territory under the Moroccan administration). We prepare reports that are sources of information for international organizations defending human rights, "he said.

"Western Sahara is a territory closed to international journalists, that is why local Sahrawi journalists are the alternative: from Equipe Media, the victims, through social networks, we look for a formula to denounce the violation of human rights and from there We started to practice journalism, "he said.

That position on the ground, contributes to "being a reliable source for many," he added about Equipe Media, which has just received the XII International Prize for Journalism Julio Anguita Parrado for being the only ones that practice in the former Spanish colony.

Al Khalidi has been working as a journalist since 2010 and has been detained on three occasions for her activities, the last of which was on December 4 when she was covering a peaceful demonstration in El Aaiún, held following the resumption of talks in Geneva between the pro-independence Front Polisario and Morocco to resolve the territorial dispute of Western Sahara that has lasted 43 years.

After being arrested, beaten and her confiscated phone, she spent four hours in a police station where she was released until days later she received the notification that she was accused of practicing the profession without title.

"I consider myself an activist and journalist at the same time, it is important for me to show what happens to the Saharawi population and to deny that nothing happens in the Sahara," he said.

On his exercise as an activist journalist in a patriarchal society, the young Saharawi expressed that he has "all the family support, all my brothers suffered torture, I need to be free and raise my voice and document the sufferings of the Saharawi population. and show the world what we live. "

The young Saharawi journalist had previously been detained on August 21, 2016 when she was covering a women's demonstration, spent one night in police station and was released without charge.

Nazha al Khalidi is nervous about the trial on May 20, in El Aaiún, under the charge of usurping a title without fulfilling the necessary conditions and that, according to article 381 of the Moroccan Penal Code, may result in a jail sentence from three months to two years and an economic sanction.

He explained that this is the first time that Moroccan courts have used this charge against a Saharawi journalist.

Despite the uncertainty about what may happen to him, he confessed that it is worthwhile to carry out "this civil work" so that "Morocco does not cut the line that shows the daily suffering of the Saharawi population".


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