IFJ Calls for Media Access to Laayoune after Morocco Bans Air Travel

The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) today

called on Moroccan authorities to lift the ban on foreign journalists who wish

to fly to the city of Laayoune, near the Sahrawi camp of Agdaym Izik which was the

scene of violent clashes between Moroccan security forces and the Sahrawi

protesters yesterday.

"The ban is a serious restriction of journalists'

movement and needs to be lifted immediately," said Aidan White, IFJ General

Secretary. "Reporters need access to the area to inform national and

international public about events in Laayoune."

Media reports say the flight ban affected a group of twelve

Spanish and one French journalists who were travelling to the region. In some

cases, officials of the country's air carrier, the Royal Air Maroc, took

boarding cards from passengers already in the waiting lounge who were told to

travel by car, reports say. There is a distance of 1,300 kilometers between

Rabat and Laayoune.

The Syndicat national de la presse marocaine, (SNPM),

an IFJ affiliate, has also protested the air travel ban and wrote to the

Ministry of Information demanding that journalists be allowed to fly to

Laayoune.

The IFJ says the work of independent reporting is

crucial during conflicts and the Moroccan government must facilitate access to

all journalists in Western Sahara.

"Journalists are objective observers who are best

placed to report on the crisis unfolding in Laayoune," added White. "The ban

serves no useful purpose and may even fuel rumors and complicate further the

conflict."

For more information, please

contact IFJ on + 32 2 235 22 07

The IFJ represents more than

600.000 members in 125 countries