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IFJ backs protests against restrictions on Moroccan journalists in Melillia

(IFJ/IFEX) - 10 November 2010 - The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) today backed its Moroccan affiliate, the Syndicat national de la presse marocaine (SNPM), which condemned Spanish officials in the city of Melillia over the treatment of two Moroccan journalists who were briefly detained on the border, questioned and denied entry in the city.

"Restricting movement of journalists on duty without a valid reason is a violation of their rights," said Aidan White, IFJ General Secretary. "The events in Melillia matter to the Moroccan public and Spanish authorities should avoid unnecessary action which hinders the work of media covering the events in the city."

According to the SNPM, two cameramen of la Société nationale de radiodiffusion et de télévision (SNRT), Abderahim El Bouhedioui (2M) and Rachid Laâtabi (Al Oula), were arrested by border guards in Melillia and questioned at the police station on the reasons for their visit to the city. Three other journalists, Badiaâ Zekhnini (SNRT), Azzedine Lamrini (Al Ahdat Al Maghribiya newspaper) and Said Youssi (MAP press agency) had their passports confiscated by Spanish police. The group was later refused entry and returned to the Moroccan city of Nador.

One SNPM board member in the city reportedly said the actions of Spanish officials were designed to "frustrate the work of Moroccan journalists, particularly broadcast reporters, following their coverage of the Spanish forces' recent clampdown on the Moroccan population living in Melillia."

The IFJ says there is a need to facilitate media access to information in order to prevent rumors and distrust among the public. It also called on journalists' communities in both countries to work together in sharing information and mobilise their efforts to achieve greater press freedom for their members.

"We call for a thorough investigation into the police action in Melillia," added White.

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