A Danish journalist who aired a programme about West Sahara and funds paid by European fishermen to fish off West Sahara was detained at the weekend, interrogated, had technical equipment confiscated and was put on a plane out of the country, according to DR.
Mads Ellesøe and his partner were arrested late on Saturday night by policemen in civilian clothes at their hotel in Marrakesh, where they had arrived a few hours previously.
“The six men refused to show identification but said they had been following my movements since before I arrived in Morocco. They confiscated our passports, took our SIM cards out of our telephones and searched all of our belongings,” says Ellesø, who is now in Paris.
Ellesøe and his partner were taken for interrogation to what is described as an ‘anonymous-looking building’ with armed guards outside. They were interrogated by people claiming to be from the local police.
Ellesøe says he was forced to sign a document saying that he was a serious threat to public order in Morocco. At the same time, memory sticks, hard disks and photographic memory cards were removed from both Danes’ computers and cameras.
“Without us knowing, they unscrewed our private computers and removed the hard disks and then put the computers back in our bags. We both have all of our personal documents and photographs on them, so they have access to everything about us,” Ellesøe says.
During interrogation, the men said they knew that he had previously been in Algeria and demanded that he divulge his sources there and in Marrakesh and inform them of the stories he was working on.
Ellesøe’s interviews for a programme aired last week took place in refugee camps on the border between Algeria and West Sahara.
“These are not questions that you ask tourists. Everything suggests that Ellesøe’s arrest was the result of his critical journalism regarding the controversial European agreements with the Moroccan authorities about fishing rights in the occupied territories. So this is not just about a tourist, but about press freedoms. I expect the Foreign Ministry to take this very seriously,” says the Danish Broadcasting Corporation P1 Documentary Editor Tanja Nyrup Madsen.
Following their interrogation, the couple were taken to the airport and put under armed guard with instructions not to open their computers. Some 5 hours later they were put on an aircraft out of the country.
Ellesøe has asked the Foreign Ministry to help him recoup his equipment.
At the same time, the Danish Union of Journalists has urged the Foreign Ministry to contact Moroccan authorities to criticise the action taken and urge them to release any confiscated equipment.
“It is vital that the Foreign Ministry acts in such a case as this. It is completely crazy and a serious breach of press freedoms. It is vital that the authorities act every time something like this happens,” Danish Union of Journalists Chairman Mogens Blicher Bjerregaard tells DR News.
Blicher Bjerregaard has contacted both the International Federatrion of Journalists and the Morocccan Union of Journalists chairman in the case.
Edited by Julian Isherwood