Monday, May 07, 2007

Australian filmmakers detained by Polisario in Tindouf

Via an anonymous commenter in this post, a piece of worrisome news from Tindouf:
Two Australian journalists who were making a documentary on slavery in refugee camps in north-west Africa were briefly detained in Algeria by separatists, an official said on Monday.
...
"We are aware that two Australian journalists who were making a documentary in the Western Sahara, in the border area between Algeria and Mauritania, have encountered difficulties with the Polisario Front," [a Foreign Ministry spokesman] said.
According to the article, the Australians are Violeta Ayala and Daniel Fallshaw. Now, the only Australian journalists interested in Tindouf that I know of are associated with The Wall of Shame. And indeed, a Google search reveals confirms that (CTRL-F Ayala or Fallshaw to see that they're working on the project).

I'm surprised that Polisario detained them, as Wall looks like it's going to be mainly critical of the Moroccan occupation. Still, I suppose Polisario takes a dim view of any criticism the Australians might have found.

Google Analytics tells me I have readers in Australia. Any idea what happened? Whatever did, I'm glad Ms. Ayala and Mr. Fallshaw are OK.

UPDATE: According to a commenter, this story is being refuted by the people involved. More as it develops.

UPDATE 2: I misspelled "Australian." I'm hearing a lot that this story is being denied by the people behind "Wall of Shame," but I'm not finding anything online. Links?

Also, good Spanish speakers are encouraged to check out a long post in the comments in Spanish. It's by someone who says Ayala and Fallshaw stayed with him.

24 comments:

  1. Anonymous1:41 PM

    Hi Will and All

    Will give in the last post a very interested issue. But Moroccan SF want to change the headline


    There are a lot of confusions here in this report:

    1) “ .. We are aware that two Australian journalists who were making a documentary in the Western Sahara, in the border area between Algeria and Mauritania ..”
    THIS AREA IS SO FAR FROM THE REFUGEES CAMPS IN SOUTH WEST OF ALGERIA

    2) THERE IS NO COMERCIAL AIROPORT IN THIS DESERT REGION. IF THEY WANT TO TAKE “ commercial flight “ as they said. THEY HAVE TO GO MORE THAN 300-400 KM TO TINDOUF OR TO GO BACK TO MAURITANIA


    3) “ ..Slavery in refugees camps..” THIS IS NEW AND NOT TRUE.
    4) WE HAVE TO HEAR THE OTHER SIDE ( POLISARIO) AND FROM THESE JOURNALISTS FIRST TO MAKE JUDGMENT .
    5) Morocco regime can be the last one talking about the liberty of speech ( see independent reports )
    6) Personally I don’t believe AFP on Western Sahara issue ….( the only office they have in North Africa is based on Morocco . the officials there are “giving them cookies “false news” via MAP and MIDI 1 radio station.
    7) Plz check for other World agencies like Reuters or AP

    Regards
    Desertman

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  2. I am a little bit surprised about the info because, from the begining, Polisario won't allow journalists to get to the camps if they know they will write something bad about the Front.

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  3. Anonymous1:52 PM

    Hi Will

    Personally I don’t think that Polisario detained them now specially when they are looking for “any’ kind of Public Relations
    No way

    Polisario even release more than 2000 Moroccan soldiers captured during the war with morocco ( getting nothing ) to show that they are respecting human rights
    and
    they /Polisario/ now want to detain Australian journalists. Something is wrong here

    As I said above. Probably you have to wait for Polisario point of view to make any judge here or even to hear from the journalists themselves

    If no confirmation from other world news agencies ( Reuters, AP). AFP have all news ( on Western Sahara ) from Morocco side where their office for north Africa is located

    Also looking at what happened in other part of the world. This is look like “ normal incident “


    Regards
    Desertman

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  4. Anonymous2:07 PM

    Desertman, I usually find good things in your comments, but the last one was really missed. Proclaiming that Polisario released the Moroccan POWs because it respects human rights is wrong, especially regarding the last release in 2005. That release was the result of a strong pressure and campaign launched by Morocco with PR relays hitting hard in the US. Polisario found out that this POW story was really damaging and opposed to the image it wants to disseminate worldwide. In parallel, the US was also pushing for that release, and consequently, Polisario took the right decision to free the remaining prisoners.
    So no H.R concerns here.

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  5. Anonymous3:03 PM

    Hi all,

    I have firsthand information from the producer of the film "Wall of Shame" on which the two journalists were working. Here is what he says: "they journalists refute the stories that have appeared in the press about supposed kidnapping by the POLISARIO. They admit there were a few difficulties but that they have now been resolved. They confirm that at no stage were they ever detained by the POLISARIO to which they would like to express their appreciation for their generosity in arranging their trip and giving them permission to film in the Saharawi refugee camps".

    Besides, the journalists will soon be issuing a statement to refute the series of allegations that were made about their visit to the Saharawi refugee camps in Algeria.

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  6. Ramón4:06 PM

    Hola.
    Lo siento, no sé el suficiente inglés para escribir esto pero he de puntualizar varias cosas al respecto de los dos periodistas.
    1.- Conozco a los periodistas personalmente, La sra. Ayala y su cámara estuvieron en España, en concreto en mi casa y durante varios días, en ese tiempo convivieron con mi familia con la excusa de entrevistar a un amigo que en ese momento estaba con nosotros mientras se le arreglaban los papeles para poder venir a mi país con regularidad ya que es un estrecho colaborador de mi mujer en el proyecto de alfabetización de mujeres adultas en los campamentos que da clases gratuitas a más de mil mujeres.
    2.- Durante ese tiempo decían que el reportaje era sobre las familias separadas por el conflicto. La señora de mi amigo tenía a su madre en la zona ocuada por Marruecos y gracias al plan de la MINURSO se iban a ver.
    3.- En el tiempo que estuvo con nosotros fueron tratados como uno más de la familia y no se les cobró absolutamente nada por su estancia en mi hogar.
    4.- Cuando la mujer de mi amigo huyó a los campamentos saharauis fue llevada allí siendo una niña por una señora que la acogió y la crió como suya, de hecho entre ellas se hablan de madre e hija y las hijas de la señora son sus hermanas.
    5.- Cuando la madre verdadera fue a los campamentos los dos periodistas estaban allí para ver lo que pasaba. Resultó que casi no lloraron y que el recibimiento, según las costumbres saharauis, fue más bien frío en contra del gusto de la señora Ayala y además, como es norma de recibimiento saharaui, la mujer de mi amigo se fue a cocinar para todos mientras los demás hablaban.
    6.- A partir de ahí cambia el tema del documental y se trasforma en el racismo y el esclavismo existente entre las mismas familias dentro de los campamentos. Tanto la esposa de mi amigo como mi amigo son negros y la señora que la acogió blanca. Empiezan a surgir cosas raras y los encargados de seguridad de los campamentos quieren hablar con los periodistas.
    7.- Los dos huyen con el material y se esconden en un albergue que hay para residentes cubanos en los campamentos.
    8.- Aparecen las noticias del arresto de los periodistas por parte de las agencias de prensa marroquíes, siempre falsas, ya que nunca se produjo.
    9.- Según tengo entendido, hoy mismo día 7 de Mayo, la "señora" Ayala pide excusas al Polisario, manifiesta que ha sido muy bien atendida y que lamentan haberle hecho caso a los servicios secretos marroquíes.
    10.- Esto me duele sobre todo por que la "señora" Ayala ha abusado de la confianza de mi amigo y su familia mintiéndole desde el primer momento. Si ustedes supiesen lo que ha trabajado este hombre para facilitarles el trabajo la maldecirían como hago yo.
    11.- Me temo que en el documental va a tergiversar todo lo que pueda para aparentar lo que desea esa "señora" y que incluso mi familia puede salir mal parada en él.
    12.- Lamento que personas que se llaman profesionales hagan estas cosas para poder seguir adelante, espero que esta vez, al menos, se les caiga la cara de vergüenza.
    Un saludo

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  7. Ramón,

    Muchos gracias para sus palabras. Tambien, hablo solamente un poco de español, pero entiendo su mensaje. Gracias por su asistencia, y hay muy bueno que son personas en España que se gustan los Sahrouis.

    Salud,
    -JAK

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  8. mohamed Brahim8:34 PM

    Hi will! it is not news that Morocco tries to defame sahrawis by spreading false news in an aim to plays its orchestral propaganda.I just read a press release from the Australian film Producer. Hesays that all what the moroccan news talked about was a bunch of lies and that nobod was arrested. He also says that They are thankful for the hositality and the help they have recieved in the camps. He denied all propaganda and said that his film was about salvery as it was rather about the wall of shame and the story of a sahrawi family torn btween the camps and the occupied territories. Theaustralian film produer waill publish another press release. Meanwhile, a trailer of the film as available in his web site:www.thewallofshame.info

    Mohamed Brahim

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  9. Anonymous10:08 PM

    Instead of "the wall of shame", a more approriate name fore the movie would be "the camps of shame".
    If the wall refers to the Moroccan security berm, a.k.a the belt, that sand and mine protection was built to stop Polisario guerilleros from accessing and attacking the Moroccan positions. What's the link between the camps and the wall ? nothing except Polisario propaganda that want to convince naive people that the security wall stops refugees from going back home (what a sad story, a naive person would say). The truth is totally different: the refugees can't live because they are stuck clueless between Polisario guerilleros and the Algerian Army.
    Those who have the means to flee have already done it and are now living peacefully with their families in Morocco.
    But the Moroccan berm does hurt: militarily, it efficiently killed the effectiveness of Polisario guerrilleros who can only scout Moroccan positions from away.
    Polisario protests against the Moroccan wall is a pure propaganda. If Polisario feels that the wall stops refugees from going back home, I have an easy suggestion : make a formal declaration at the U.N telling that the refugees want to go back now and ask for the UN to manage the process. I am 1000% sure Polisario won't do it because it will loose its main card, the refugees.

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  10. Espanol y Sahara Occidental.:
    No se mucho espanol. Justin or someone else, were you able to get the gist of that? I was reading that they stayed with Ramon in order to get their papers in order for the camps?

    And then Ramon seems to get angry at Ayala, and I'm just assuming that because of the quotes around Senora. Also, he talks about abuse of professionalism--but is this aimed at Moroccan journalists or Ayala and her camera man?

    If only I didn't love online translators so much in high school!

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  11. Anonymous4:50 AM

    Press release issued by Daniel Fallshaw and Violeta Ayala
    Paris, 7 May, 2006

    We have been working on a documentary film focusing on the life of one family living in the Saharawi refugee camps in the Tindouf region of Western Algeria. The film deals with the separation of Fetim from her mother, separated 31 years ago as a three year old when Morocco invaded Western Sahara. Ambarka Fetim’s mother who lives in the occupied territories of Western Sahara flew for the first time to the refugee camps in Algeria on 27th April with the UN mission that reunites Saharawi families for 5 days.
    This trip was our third to the Polisario run camps since September 2006.

    We have been working closely with the Polisario who had until recently been extremely helpful and supportive as they are with the many aid organisations and other media that visit the camps.

    Toward the very end of our most recent stay in the camps difficulties began to arise between ourselves and the Polisario, after the discovery of a missing tape. The Polisario began to believe we were straying from the focus of our film, that of family separation and giving too much attention to Fetim’s black extended family and friends.

    On our second last day we arrived back at Fetim’s home for the farewell dinner of her mother and found the head of Protocol and 3 other Polisario officials there, the situation was extremely tense. We decided to spend the night somewhere else.

    The following day at around 5pm we were picked up by Polisario officials and were held for a total of 5 hours. After which we had a long discussion with the head of protocol together with the head of security, there were two UN officers present to observe. After the discussion we requested to the UN officers to be removed from the camps. After negotiations with the Polisario, we were allowed to leave with the UN officers. At all times the Polisario looked after us and afforded us every courtesy.

    We never discussed with the media any of our activities and discoveries within the camps. This moment in time is extremely important for the independence of Western Sahara. Something we support and have been fighting for the past 12 months.
    Any information and material we gathered while in the camps has been and will continue to be treated with the utmost respect. We care for and respect Fetim’s family a great deal, they opened their lives and home and hearts to us as we did for them.

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  12. AFP is obviously partisan on the W Sahara issue. They're the only international wire service that regularly calls Polisario 'separatists', which not only misrepresents the legal nature of the conflict, it is terminology right out of Rabat.
    -SW

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  13. Anonymous, are you talking about that "defensive wall" littered with landmines that kill the occasional Bedouin or child playing anywhere near them? The "defensive wall" built to protect the Moroccan military in their war of aggression against the Sahrawis? Right...

    A rough translation:
    Hi,
    I'm sorry, but I don't know sufficient Enlgigh to write this, but I [am aware of] various things in regards to these two journalists.
    1.- I personally know these journalists, Ms. Ayala and her cameraman studeid in Spain, [stayed] in my house for several days and in this time spoke with my family under the auspice of interviewing a friend who at this moment is with us with his paperwork ready to go to my country regularly and since he is collaborating with my wife on a project of [categorizing, listing?] the more than 1,000 adult women in the camps that live in [squalid conditions?].
    2.- During this time, they decided to report on the families separated by the conflict. My friend's wife had her mother in the Morocco-occupied zone and was grateful for the MINURSO plan to go.
    3.- In the time they studied with us, they were treated like family, and we received no compensation.
    4.- When the wife of my friend went to the Sahrawi camps, she was taken as a girl and raised as her daughter, in fact, [something about how a mother and daughter are raised as "daughters" of the same woman and her sisters - some product of the refugee crisis, I suppose.]
    5.- When the true mother went both to the camps, journalists were there to see what happened. Sahrawis almost did not cry and the reception, according to the customs, was rather cold according to Mrs. Ayala and furthermore, as is the Sahrawi greeting norm, the wife of my friend went away to cook for them all while the others spoke.
    6.- After this, the subject of documentary changes and becomes racist and the existing [esclavismo] between families within the camps there. [To some extent?], the wife of my friend [just like my friend looks] black and the lady who welcomed them was white. They begin to discuss [rare? possibly controversial?] things and the ones in charge of security of the camps want to speak with the journalists.
    7.- Both of them flee with the material and they hide in a shelter that there is for Cuban residents in the camps.
    8.- The news of the arrest of the journalists appears on the Moroccan news agencies, always false, since one never took place.
    9.- According to my understanding, today - May 7, the "lady" Ayala requested [excuses?] to the Polisario, it shows that she has been very well taken care of and that they are sorry to [them/Polisario] to have made case to the Moroccan secret services.
    10.- This hurts to me personally that the "lady" Ayala has abused the confidence of my friend and his family lying to him from the first moment. If you knew what they [had worked to facilitate], you would curse it like I do. [something like that, this part is sketchy for me.]
    11.- I am afraid that in the documentary, they are going to distort everything [they can] to pretend like whatever this "lady" wishes [is true] and my family can even [look bad?].
    12.- I lament that that people who are called professionals make these things and are allowed to go ahead, I hope that this time, at least, they are publicly shamed.
    [Salutations]

    -JAK

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  14. Anonymous12:28 PM

    Hi JAK

    Very interested

    It look also that Moroccan Securities are working hard in the refugees camps
    But all there know that.

    According to “French Intelligence “ the Polisario leaders are well penetrated by Morocco security. They gave an example : former high Polisario Military Leader and one of Polisario founders called Ayoub Lehbib. ( He was famous by his raids against Mauritania and Morocco during 16 yrs of Guerilla war ).
    Morocco spent on him more than XX Million USD. They worked hard to get him for 3 years from many countries ( Morocco. Mauritania Spain, Portugal ….)

    They used that he is not educated and the naivety of some of his tribes people…
    They promised him a Villa on the sea side and account of xx USD.
    After 3 months of investigation they sent him to the desert to care about camels. Some of his family tried to help him.
    Polisario allow his family and mother to visit him

    This can be a movie for Hollywood ….:)

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  15. Anonymous12:30 PM

    Justin, your comment "Anonymous, are you talking about that "defensive wall" littered with landmines that kill the occasional Bedouin or child playing anywhere near them?" just proves that Polisario message for naive people works.
    What the heck is a child doing in a military zone in the middle of the desert, with an army in one side and gerrilleros on the other, and with landmines between them ? what kind of question is that. The Moroccan belt is built in the desert to block Polisario attacks, and it did successfuly.
    Now, regarding the Moroccan agression against the Saharwis, know that the Kingdom of Morocco is a multi-ethnic country where you have arabs, berbers, rif people, and sahrawis. Sahrawis in Morocco live their life nornally as other citizens and occupy different functions in the public and private sectors without any complex.

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  16. Anonymous1:58 PM

    Hi Will, that piece of news was also mentioned by south african sources which also spoke about slavery and stuff. You know perfectly well that south africans are no fans of ours. Of course Desertman has the universal truth and tells everyone there's no freedom of speech in Morocco. And he does not 'believe AFP on western sahara'. SPS is more credible of course. Studentintheus thak you for the precision. As for the release of Moroccan POWs as a human rights gesture, this is simply insulting the intelligence of the people in this blog. The polisario gangsters deserve a Nuremberg for the way they treated them. And by the way the journalists were detained by the Algerian authorities.
    El Tiburon

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  17. Anonymous2:27 PM

    http://www.int.iol.co.za/?set_id=1&click_id=85&art_id=nw20070507090927818C229481

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  18. Anonymous2:30 PM

    http://www.int.iol.co.za/?set_id=1&click_id=85&art_id=nw20070508090620273C132139

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  19. Anonymous,

    I won't carry this on for eternity, but land mines are an irresponsible way of doing an awful thing. It's a doubleplusungood. Also, who made it a war zone? Children are living in occupied territory because of Morocco. Lastly, a Moroccan politician was one of the most recent land mine victims, so even they don't know where they left this atrocious devices. If you're honestly supporting Morocco on this matter, you've got to be foolish, evil, or some combination of the two.

    -JAK

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  20. Anonymous6:51 AM

    Yo conozco personalmente al padre de Violeta, el es muy activo en la comunidad latina en Sydney.
    Violeta es una persona muy respetable, ella ha escrito articulos sobre la empresa de petroleo mas grande de Australia Woodside y la corrupcion en Mauritania. Ha hecho un documental muy interesante sobre el Cancer en las mujeres en Bolivia y otro sobre Woodside petroleum y la corrupcion.
    Señor Ramon, nosotros los latinos y Españoles nos sentimos muy ofendidos al escuchar sus palabras.
    Violeta es una mujer como muy pocas y no haga juicios sin escucharla.
    Violeta trabajaba en la radio de SBS en Español. Ella es un orgullo para los latinos en Australia.

    Mario E.

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  21. Anonymous11:01 AM

    Justin, I don't support landmines in a civilian region. Period. Landmines were put (past tense) in the Western Sahara by Morocco, Polisario and likely Algeria. Period. landmines from the Spanish era are also highly probable. Period. The responsibily of civilian casualities of landmines is beared by one those parties.
    Recently, Polisario has launched medias campaigns to vaunt its voluntary destruction of landmines. It's a proof that the Front had landmines and implanted them in the desert. Because Polisario movements were constrained by the Moroccan berm and the UN ceasfire, landmines don't have anymore value for Polisario, so instead of ending being rotten in the shelves, Polisario launched its media campaign claiming to destroy landmines for the sake of peace ! I have a new suggestion for Polisario : why don't you reveal where you have planted the landmines in the 70's, 80's and early 90's in order to save children, as Justin said, from stepping on them. SAME suggestion is valid for the other parties.

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  22. Anonymous12:11 PM

    There is no Slavery in camps. May there are kind of “Racism” like in many parts of the world ( Morocco too ) and all people have to be against that of course

    Moroccans who are writing here.
    Moroccans who are “kissing” hands of the King and GENUFLECT behind the King in the 21 century
    That is The Slavery

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  23. Anon,

    Sure. Polisario also held POW's and they released them. Polisario are willing to make responsible steps to de-escalate the conflict. Morocco, on the other hand, has mass graves of political prisoners they said they never took. Regardless, Morocco strew land mines all over others' territory and turned a civilian zone into a war zone and then an occupied zone. Polisario didn't. Again, the onus is on Morocco here as the aggressor, the irresponsible party, and the one with the means to unilaterally end the conflict.

    -JAK

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  24. Ramón6:30 PM

    Hola de nuevo.
    Acabo de leer el artículo escrito por la señora (sin comillas) Ayala y su cámara Dan.
    Yo no lo había leido cuando escribí el post anterior por lo cual, y gracias al beneficio de la duda he de pedir alguna disculpa a los periodistas aunque no me quede del todo satisfecho.
    Y no me quedo satisfecho por que
    la señora Ayala, a mi entender, tiene un defecto como periodista, le gusta lo emotivo, la lágrima fácil y los corazones desgarrados, yo la he visto personalmente varias veces en mi casa buscando esa otra realidad deformada.
    En el momento estrella, las cosas no le salieron como ella esperaba, ni lágrimas, ni corazones desgarrados... la visita de la madre verdadera fue fría a los ojos de occidente. El documental se le iba de las manos e improvisó, un giro nuevo, la esclavitud en los campamentos. La familia de mi amigo era ideal, son negros, quizás descendientes de esclavos, Fatim (la protagonista) fue criada por árabes, llega su madre real a los campamentos para verla y Fatim se pone a trabajar para dar de comer a todos mientras su madre adoptiva, la blanca, se sienta. Ahí estaba, la esclava trabaja y la señora mira, lo ha conseguido, unas llamadas para dar un poco más de negritud a los que trabajaban para todos y ya está. Así de fácil, ya se ha cambiado la historia, ya hay dramatismo para añadir al documental.
    Solo hay que tener cuidado de no comentar las costumbres saharauis en cuanto a recibimientos de visitas, que es exactamente lo que hizo Fatim, sobre todo si su marido no estaba en casa y está en España arreglando su documentación.
    He de señalar que este comentario es solo una especulación mía y deseo con todo mi corazón que sean solo imaginaciones. De verdad y con toda sinceridad, espero tener que pedir un día sinceras disculpas a los dos periodistas por que el documental fue fiel a realidad.

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