Thursday, November 18, 2010

Western Sahara News

You have to appreciate the irony. The Palestinians — who have made photo propaganda and falsification a central part of their anti-Israel efforts — are now caught up in such a gambit by another liberation-style group. The context is the ongoing conflict between Morocco and the Polisario Front, which opposes a Moroccan plan for autonomy for the West Sahara and prefers to fan the flames of conflict and perpetuate the misery of those warehoused in camps in Algeria. The latest incident is detailed in this account: At a news conference, Interior Minister Taieb Cherkaoui played a video which he said showed “a man armed with a knife slitting the throat of two members of the security forces, the first in the camp and the second in Laayoune”, the Western Sahara’s main town. These were “barbarous acts”, said Cherkaoui. The video was shot by Moroccan police. The raid on the camp near Laayoune housing thousands of Sahrawis, who moved there to protest against their living conditions, was carried out on November 8, a few hours before a new round of talks between the Polisario, the main Western Sahara rebel group, and the Moroccan government started near New York. Morocco has said that 12 people died in clashes between protesters and the police, including 10 members of the security forces. But the pro-independence Polisario said dozens of people died and more than 4,500 were wounded in the violence. Cherkaoui said some Sahrawi protesters, whom he described as criminal gangs, “deliberately killed members of the security forces, used knives, molotov cocktails and gas canisters” to start fires. The police raid “was deliberately peaceful, no shots were fired and no deaths were reported from among the camp population and from Laayoune”, said Cherkaoui. Well, the Polisario Front felt compelled to embellish and distort the incident. The group bandied about photos of wounded children — a sure-fire attention getter with the Western media, as the Palestinians have proven time and again. But the children weren’t from the Western Sahara but instead from Gaza (perhaps a few of the human shields used by Hamas?). This report explains: Spanish news agency EFE said Friday it had sent a photo supposedly of injured infants in Western Sahara which turned out to be a four-year-old image of children hurt in Gaza. The photo, purchased from a web site which made the original error, was published in major daily newspapers including the leading daily El Pais, and the centre-right daily El Mundo. It showed infants with their heads wrapped in bandages being treated in hospital. In El Pais, the photo carried the caption: “Two injured Saharan children are treated at a hospital in Laayoune,” the capital of the Western Sahara. Palestinian chief negotiator Saeb Erekat is now incensed by such disinformation. The lesson here is one for respectable media outlets: be wary of accepting at face value reports or photographic “evidence” from groups whose journalistic bona fides are in question and whose motives are suspect. And that’s a lesson that is equally applicable in the Western Sahara and in Gaza.

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