Sunday, January 13, 2008

More information on Moroccan puppet sites

Earlier, I wrote a post about Polisario Confidential, a site with anti-Polisario, pro-Morocco articles backed up by a Google Adwords campaign. Commenters pointed out that several other sites similar to Polisario Confidential exist, some in French. All of the sites, and Sahel Intelligence, are registered at the same server. You may remember Sahel Intelligence as the site that liked Western Sahara Info so much, it decided to steal its articles.

One crafty, presumably multilingual commenter found this article (French, translated version here) that seems to be about the sites. I got my degree in French from Babelfish U, so correct me if I'm wrong, but this seems to be a site for press releases, like the PR Newswire service that distributed the Together Foundation's press release about Tindouf slavery. Selected excerpts:

Western Sahara: how Moroccans have won the battle of net

Backed by an advertising campaign Google Adwords mass, and having entrusted, according to our sources, the editorial and graphic design sites to a famous American communications agency based in Washington, Morocco innovated both in the tone used in mechanisms to relay its action.
Emphasis mine. It's obviously silliness to say Morocco "won the battle of the net"--where are the awesome Sahara-is-Moroccan blogs, and why does the Sahrawi Western Sahara Online beat the copycat Western Sahara Online in Google searches? Anyway, my bet's on Edelman for the famous American communications agency.

16 comments:

  1. There's a realization in Morocco in the last few years that the lobbying effort has been unsufficient (and that the diplomacy has been crap under Benaissa). Several figures -- some known, others newly trying to ingratiate themselves with the palace -- have been involved in multiplying the US-based lobbbying efforts (on the Sahara and other issues) as well as disseminate information that shows the kingdom in a good light in a reasonable, not too propagandistic way. Obviously they should be a little more careful about sourcing.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Anonymous12:45 PM

    According to Saharawi writers and journalists website: http://www.upes.org/
    Last night the official Western Sahara government website: http://www.rasd-state.ws/
    have been hacked /damaged by moroccan hackers ..this website still off
    the Western Sahara websites also blocked by the ISPs in occupied WS

    ReplyDelete
  3. Anonymous1:33 PM

    If somebody will write about “Morocco Confidential” . this is will be a funny game really

    ReplyDelete
  4. Anonymous2:01 PM

    006 Advocacy & Lobbying & BNFL Social Responsibility Award: Free Them Now
    Year:
    2006

    Category:
    Advocacy & Lobbying

    Country:
    USA

    Client:
    Moroccan American Center for Policy

    PR Agency:
    Edelman

    Awarded Type:
    Golden World Award


    A Campaign to Win the Freedom of the World’s Longest-Held Prisoners of War

    Edelman on Behalf of the Moroccan American Center for Policy (MACP)

    The Free Them Now campaign was a public affairs effort that led to the release of 408 Moroccan detainees who were internationally recognized as the world’s longest-held prisoners of war (POWs). Held in prison camps in the deserts of North Africa by the little-known Polisario Front – many for more than 20 years – these men represent a triumph of patience, perseverance and friendship. Our strategic campaign created an environment of international pressure that shamed the Polisario Front into releasing these men from torture and hopelessness.


    Statement of Problem
    Lt. Ali El Jaouhar’s wife saw her husband off to war in the Western Sahara – but would not live long enough to see him return two decades later. The lieutenant and hundreds of fellow Moroccan soldiers were captured by the rebel Polisario Front during a war lasting from 1975 to 1991. Until August 2005, the Polisario held these men, against international law, as living, breathing political bargaining chips.

    Last May, 408 of these soldiers still remained captive – held in squalid conditions, tortured and forced to perform slave labor – many for more than 20 years. On behalf of the Moroccan American Center for Policy (MACP), and in coordination with the Moroccan government, Edelman developed a campaign supporting Moroccan King Mohammed VI’s efforts to draw American and international attention to the world’s longest-held POWs.

    The mission of the program was clear: gain freedom for all 408 remaining prisoners. Through extensive research, detailed planning and careful execution, we designed a campaign to win the prisoners’ freedom.


    Research
    Our research consisted of these primary elements:

    Assessing the issue’s profile: Through media analysis going back a decade, we found that – despite the visits, findings and entreaties of a range of global nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) – the plight of these POWs remained largely ignored by the media and out of public view. Our informal soundings of U.S. NGOs and policymakers concerned with human rights confirmed minimal awareness. A clear, research-based challenge emerged: to make the POWs’ cause apparent – and relevant – to Americans.

    In a rare piece of early coverage, a 1996 Financial Times story quoted a POW:

    “I ask the others if I am a human being here, or if I am an animal. We are Muslims. We believe in God. We pray. We are not rocks. We are living in this inferno. We are the forgotten victims of this drama. We have our lives to live. I have lost my youth. We have lost our families. Every time we receive letters somebody has died. How long is this going to go on? Please, will somebody notice us?”

    Compiling our case: Through interviews and online searches we were able to compile primary source materials making a powerful case for the POWs’ immediate release: unconscionably harsh treatment, complete disregard for the Geneva Convention on Treatment of Prisoners of War and statements by the U.S. State Department, United Nations, Amnesty International, etc. Research also confirmed the as-yet unstated fact that these were the world’s longest-held prisoners of war.

    Identifying a compelling POW voice…: To capture the true horror of the remaining POWs’ ongoing ordeal, we interviewed six recently released POWs who had made the liberation of the remaining 408 their cause. After hearing their stories, we knew we had found the “passionate voice” for our campaign.

    …And an American echo chamber: Branding the prisoners as the world’s longest-held POWs, we identified a wide range of potential U.S. third-party advocates and thought leaders, assessing the capacity of each to help propel this issue forward.


    Planning
    Objective: Our objective was to generate U.S. awareness of the POWs and channel that awareness into an appeal that would ultimately persuade the Polisario to change its decades-held position and set the POWs free.

    Target Audiences: Our ultimate target audience was the Polisario – the captors of the POWs – reachable through an intermediate audience of U.S. policymakers, opinion and media elites, and the American public.

    Strategic Approach: Our research guided us to a five-pronged strategic approach that coincided with the diplomatic efforts of the Moroccan government:

    Crystallize and clarify our cause: By accurately identifying these men as the world’s longest-held prisoners of war; and calling on the American and Moroccan public to join His Majesty King Mohammed VI and the Moroccan government in a call to Free Them Now!;

    Americanize our appeal: By engaging U.S. Senator John McCain (R-AZ) – the country’s most recognized former POW – in making a personal and public appeal to the POWs’ captors to set them free; and by persuading the U.S.’ largest organization of former American POWs, American Ex-POWs, to embrace the cause as its own;

    Mobilize other potent forces: By engaging thousands of outspoken and politically potent Cuban-Americans in the cause, given the Polisario’s close ties with Cuban President Fidel Castro;

    Channel awareness into action: By giving supporters a readily accessible opportunity to sign a petition through a dedicated Web site, www.FreeThemNow.org;

    Capture the passion: By empowering the six recently released POWs to tell their own stories in order to make the remaining prisoners’ plight real, awful and urgent.


    Execution
    Main execution points were, in chronological order:

    Launch of Web site, www.FreeThemNow.org, prior to the media flow (resulting in more than 6,000 petition signatures from 100-plus countries);

    Senator McCain’s press conference with the former POWs to release a letter to their captors, demanding they “Free Them Now” (accompanied by his appearance on CNN and CBS morning shows);

    Active involvement of the United States’ largest organization of former POWs (whose president said at Senator McCain’s press conference, “I am here today on behalf of 27,000 American former POWs and their family members to join your cause”);

    Two editorial board briefings with The Washington Times (resulting in three powerful editorials);

    AP and Reuters interviews (resulting in feature coverage in more than 60 newspapers and Web sites);

    A visit to south Florida by the ex-POWs hosted by Congressman Lincoln Diaz-Balart, R-FL (which led to positive English and Spanish print and broadcast coverage and active Cuban-American community support).


    Evaluation
    Four months after the Free Them Now campaign began, President Bush sent Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Richard Lugar (R-IN) as his envoy to secure the POWs’ release. The final 408 POWs gained their freedom and returned to Morocco on August 17, 2005.

    The impact of the campaign is perhaps best appreciated by noting how the Polisario’s own public positions toward its captives changed during its course. At its outset, a May 22, 2005, AP story stated that the Polisario’s chief U.S. spokesman “said his group's refusal to release the POWs was linked to Morocco's reneging on a promise” – in other words, blaming Morocco for its own soldiers’ captivity.

    Over the following 60 days, that position changed dramatically: on July 17, the Polisario’s attaché in Algeria told Reuters, "The leadership has decided to release the remaining POWs without conditions."

    Last fall, Senator McCain, Congressman Diaz-Balart and Senator Lugar were each awarded Morocco’s Order of Ouissam Alaouite medal for their roles in this remarkable effort, bringing further national attention to this issue.

    Thanks to the tools of modern communications, the forgotten prisoners were noticed. And freedom followed.

    http://www.ipra.org/detail.asp?articleid=54

    ReplyDelete
  5. Laroussi8:44 AM

    "Thanks to the tools of modern communications, the forgotten prisoners were noticed. And freedom followed."

    Maybe thanks to modern communication the forgotten conflict of Western Sahara can be noticed as well, so that an entire people can be free - not only some hundred prisoners of war...

    By the way, the Government site is down.

    Maybe they forgot to make a backup before the site was hacked?

    But now that the site is down, they could take the opportunity and redo the site that looked awful. Maybe they could even learn something from the enemy and get Joomla?

    It's free and apparently easy to run. Hey, if they Moroccan agents can run it, how difficult can it be? ;)

    ReplyDelete
  6. Hey, Joomla will do if it keeps the SADR website up. I was wary of crying "hackers!" lest it turn out that SADR just doesn't know how to run a website. If I did that and that happened, I'd look like Joe Lieberman when he said his election site was hacked, but really he just forgot to renew the server.

    ReplyDelete
  7. Laroussi9:17 AM

    Now the state site is down for maintenance...

    "Maintenance in progress - Thanks for your patience. We are currently making improvements on this site. Please check back later. We sincerely apologize for the inconvenience." it says on the site's front page.

    ReplyDelete
  8. Laroussi7:52 AM

    Now even the well-known pro-Moroccan US' daily "The Washington Times" publishes criticism against Morocco and its "police state". The newspaper reports that human rights activists in Western Sahara "face administrative and police harassment and, on occasion, torture and imprisonment after unfair trials" by Moroccan authorities.

    Way to go, Washington Times! If all Morocco's "friends" would start behaving the same, we might get somewhere quite soon. :)

    You know Mr Sarkozy and Mr Zapatero, if your friend beats his cousins and wife... you should denounce it and not just look the other way. Friend or not.

    ReplyDelete
  9. Yes, the rasd state website was hacked.
    The hacker has been traced back to a server in Marrakech, Morocco.
    Not sure how cyberlaws are enforced over there or whether there is any legislation regarding cyber-criminals chez la terre de l'amour; des baisser les mains, that is.

    ReplyDelete
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