Jean-Jacques Cornish

Yet again Moroccan authorities and media play and fast and loose with the truth

Like all the friends and supporters of the apartheid regime, the absolute monarchy that is Morocco hates being reminded of this.

So I was not surprised when the envoy from Rabat Youssef Amrani  walked up to the podium where I was speaking from at the Pretoria Country Club and yelled “Liar, liar” when I compared the regime of King Mohammed VI to those of John Vorster and P.W.Botha.

I likened Morocco’s illegal occupation of the Western Sahara in 1975 to South Africa’s futile attempt to hold onto South West Africa – now Namibia – that I

was reporting on at the United Nations in New York at the time.

So strong is Morocco’s wish to obliterate this truth, now that it is trying to forge better relations with African nations, that it forces its servile media to comply.

I have had personal experience of this having once attended an editorial conference of the newspaper Le Matin du Sahara.

When I asked whether they would ever publish a piece criticizing Morocco’s occupation of the Western Sahara, the editor sidestepped furiously.

When I followed this up with a question on whether they could ever, under any circumstances criticize the king, he literally left the room.

Since I was an official guest of the Moroccan government my visit was reported.

The next day the newspaper carried my picture taken with the editor in the pressroom.

The caption said the South African visitor had expressed amazement about the technology available to the newspaper.

Absolute balderdash.

Honest journalism has no place in a country where the leaders display a capacity to lie repeatedly to please the king.

Over the years I have noted the similarity in the ability of the Moroccans and the apartheid regime to shoot themselves in the foot.

When they reach a crossroad with an option between ethical behavior and ignominy, they can be relied up to take the latter path every time.

This week Morocco fumed as Spain taking in the President of the Saharawi Democratic Republic, Brahim Ghali, for COVID treatment.

Relations between Ranat and the former colonial power are shaky at best.

It was when the dictator General Franco died and Spain quit the Western Sahara that Morocco sent its troops in.

When Spain decolonized in Morocco, it retained two enclaves, Ceuta and Melila, on the African mainland to protect shipping on the Mediterranean and it has refused persistent Moroccan calls for their return.

Moroccan desperate to flee the poverty and parlous human rights in their own country frequently risk personal injury by trying to scale the two-meter-high, barbed-wire-topped fences around these enclaves which means effectively they have reached European territory

Not surprisingly, Spain has not apologized for its humanitarian gesture in treating President Ghali.

One has to ask what occurred to the Moroccan authorities to protest?

The Moroccan media have been dragooned into a rearguard action bombarding social media with reports of Spanish courts seeking to drag the president into court, based on complaints from a Saharawi dissident.

The mainstream media and the Spanish authorities put paid to this with discounting any idea of Brahim Ghali being summonsed.

One might say this has dented Moroccan credibility. However it is impossible to damage a quality that has not existed in decades.

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Jean-Jacques Cornish is a journalist and broadcaster who has been involved in the media all his adult life.

Starting as a reporter on his hometown newspaper, he moved briefly to then Rhodesia before returning to South Africa to become a parliamentary correspondent with the South African Press Association. He was sent to London as Sapa’s London editor and also served as special correspondent to the United Nations. He joined the then Argus group in London as political correspondent.

Returning to South Africa after 12 years abroad, he was assistant editor on the Pretoria News for a decade before becoming editor of the Star and SA Times for five years.

Since 1999 he’s been an independent journalist writing and broadcasting – mainly about Africa – for Talk Radio 702 and 567 Cape
Talk, Radio France International, PressTV, Radio Live New Zealand, Business Day, Mail & Guardian, the BBC, Agence France Press,
Business in Africa, Leadership, India Today, the South African Institute for International Affairs and the Institute for Security Studies.

He has hosted current affairs talk shows on Talk Radio 702 and 567 Cape Talk. He appears as an African affairs pundit on SABC Africa and CNBC Africa.
He lectured in contemporary studies to journalism students at the Tshwane University of Technology and the University of Pretoria.

He speaks on African affairs to corporate and other audiences.
He has been officially invited as a journalist to more than 30 countries. He was the winner of the 2007 SADC award for radio journalism.

He’s been a member of the EISA team observing elections in Somaliland, Democratic Republic of Congo, Madagascar, Zimbabwe, Egypt and Tunsiai.

In October 2009 he headed a group of 39 African journalists to the 60th anniversary celebrations of the Peoples’ Republic of China.

In January 2010 he joined a rescue and paramedical team to earthquake struck Haiti.

He is immediate past president of the Alliance Francaise of Pretoria.

Jean-Jacques is a director of Giant Media. The company was given access to Nelson Mandela in his retirement years until 2009.
He is co-producer of the hour-long documentary Mandela at 90 that was broadcast on BBC in January 2009.