In December 2018, Nazha El Khalidi was arrested in occupied Western Sahara as she filmed a peaceful manifestation. During the same time, talks between Sahrawi Polisario Front and Morocco had begun in Geneva.
– People had come out on the streets to peacefully express their support for the resolution of the conflict says Nazha El Khalidi.
– I was covering the protest on Smara Avenue; less than four minutes into my broadcast police chased and grabbed me, beat me and forced me into a police car. I was at the police station for hours, where they interrogated, threatened and physically abused me.
This event has now lead to prosecution. Nazha El Khalidi is reporter for RASD-TV (West Sahara TV station in exile) and member of the video group Equipe Media, that made the documentary ”3 Stolen Cameras” together with RåFILM.
El Khalidi faces charges of ”claiming or usurping a title associated with a profession that is regulated by law without meeting the necessary conditions to use it”. According to Article 381 of the Moroccan Penal Code, if found guilty El Khalidi could be sentenced to between three months and two years and fines for being journalist.
Equipe Media reports that this is the first time that Moroccan authorities use this form of prosecution against Sahrawi media activists.
– The trial is just the latest attempt by Morocco to criminalize and silence citizen journalists, who regularly face arbitrary arrest, ill treatment, torture and prison for their work. Says Mohamed Mayara, coordinator of Equipe Media and MR activist in occupied area.
3 members of Equipe Media are imprisoned in Moroccan jails. In 2018, the UN Working Group on on Arbitrary Detention raised Mohamed Al Banbari’s case and demanded his immediate release. He is still imprisoned, as many other Sahrawi activists.
The trial of Nazha El Khalidi is scheduled for May 20 in El Aauin. She wants international organizations to observe the trial and follow the developments in Western Sahara.