The Moroccan government has blocked US website Anonymizer.com that allows Internet-users to get round censorship, days after Reporters Without Borders recommended its use to access Sahrawi websites.
These websites, promoting independence for Western Sahara, have been censored since the beginning of December.
Reporters Without Borders released a handbook for bloggers and cyberdissidents in September 2005, containing advice on a number of technical methods of circumventing Internet filtering.
Access to Sahrawi sites blocked within Morocco
Reporters Without Borders today condemned the censorship of many websites supporting the Polisario Front's struggle for Sahrawi independence, such as Arso.org, which have been made inaccessible within Morocco.
Calling on the Moroccan authorities to stop blocking access to sites dealing with Western Sahara, the organisation said: “It should not be possible to take a decision to filter a website without a fair trial taking place first. Banning an online publication simply on the basis of an administrative decision is a serious violation of free expression.”
Reporters Without Borders has verified that the arso.org, cahiersdusahara.com, cahiersdusahara.com, wsahara.net and spsrasd.info websites have all been rendered inaccessible in Morocco since 21 November. These sites all criticise Morocco's control of Western Sahara and encourage protests, but they do not call for violence.
A “connection failure” type of error message is displayed when someone tries to access one of these sites. The decision to block may have been taken by the communication ministry, which is responsible for censorship, or the interior ministry, while monitors the Sahrawi problem. Local sources said the filtering can nonetheless be easily sidestepped by using an online proxy such as www.anonymizer.com.
ARSO - the Free and Legitimate Referendum in Western Sahara Support Association - carried photos on its website in September that showed Sahrawi prisoners being held in extremely harsh condition in the prison in El Ayoum, the territory's main city. The local state prosecutor reacted by ordering an investigation with the aim of “exposing all those implicated in this vile act that jeopardises the reputation of the prison where the inmates are held.”
Western Sahara was annexed by Morocco in 1975 and the Polisario Front wants it to be independent. The situation in the territory is extremely tense, with frequent clashes between the population and the security forces.