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Spain25 April 2006

Spanish police bar Moroccan journalist from public conference on Western Sahara

Reporters Without Borders voiced surprise today at the action of the Spanish police in forcibly expelling Said Ida Hassan, the correspondent of the Moroccan state news agency MAP, from a public conference at the Ateneo cultural centre in Madrid on 21 April on the future of Western Sahara, a disputed territory annexed by Morocco.

Hassan and around 10 Sahrawi activists were stopped by security guards and plain-clothes police who were checking people as they arrived. The police escorted them to a spot about 100 metres from the building. When Hassan showed the police his press card, they said he was “not welcome” and checked his ID papers, he told Reporters Without Borders.

“We fail to understand why the Spanish police refused to let a properly-accredited journalist attend a public conference,” Reporters Without Borders said. Treating a foreign correspondent like this is unacceptable and should not be repeated. Those in charge of the Ateneo and the Spanish authorities should explain this undemocratic behaviour.”

Sahrawi activist Dahi Agaui claimed that Hassan’s exclusion was part of Spanish efforts to hide the truth about atrocities by the Polisario Front, an armed separatist group that wants independence for Western Sahara. Agaui heads an association of victims of Polisario Front violence.

The Ateneo refused to make an comment, although approached several times by Reporters Without Borders.

The National Union of the Moroccan Press (SNMP) has written a letter of protest to the Spanish government accusing the authorities of discriminating against Moroccan journalists.

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