Experts at UN cite Brussels Court: Spanish TV channel liable for airing false photos

New York: Belgian lawyer Pierre Legros & Spanish journalist/expert Jose M. Gil offer case study and warning backed by Brussels court against falling for disinformation from Polisario.

 **Antena 3 TV repeatedly broadcast false photos, propaganda distributed by Polisario Front**

MACP (New York, NY, Oct. 11, 2012) – Last night, a Belgian lawyer and a Spanish journalist and expert on Western Sahara shared details of a July ruling by a Brussels court against Antena 3 Spanish TV for broadcasting false photos and propaganda supplied by the Polisario Front, even after the disinformation campaign was exposed and other media organizations ceased publication and offered public apologies for reporting the false information.

Pierre Legros, former president of the Bar of Brussels, offered details of the Polisario disinformation campaign at a press conference organized on the sidelines of the annual session of the United Nations Fourth Committee.  Mr. Legros recounted that a photograph had been provided to Antena 3 and other Spanish media in November 2010 purporting to show the bodies of four people killed when Moroccan authorities peacefully disbanded a protest camp that threatened to become violent near Laayoune in Western Sahara.

Within days, it was revealed that the photo in fact was from a completely unrelated incident, taken at a crime scene earlier that year in Casablanca, Morocco, where a mentally ill person had brutally murdered four members of the Rachidi family in their apartment.  After the discovery, most Spanish media stopped using the photo and apologized.

This summer, the Brussels Court of First Instance found Antena 3 liable to pay 215,000 euros in damages to the Rachidi family “for having released repeatedly this photo taken out of context in order to manipulate public opinion.” Legros, who represents the Rachidi family, expressed disbelief that a TV channel of the size of Antena 3 could ignore all the evidence proving the photo was not from Laayoune.

Jose M. Gil, a Spanish journalist and expert on the Sahara, said the bias against Morocco on the issue was not uncommon among some members of the Spanish media, who he said tended to turn a blind eye to Polisario abuses of the Sahrawi population in the Tindouf refugee camps in Algeria, including embezzlement of humanitarian assistance, while reporting any aspect of the conflict perceived to advance the Polisario cause.

Gil said that while the Polisario still enjoys sympathy in some sectors of Spanish public opinion, it is increasingly worried by the deterioration of relations between the Spanish government and the Polisario leadership.  Gil pointed out what he called a strategic shift by the Spanish government and its support for Morocco on the Sahara. “For the first time in Spanish history, Spanish soldiers were deployed into the Tindouf camps in order to evacuate the Spanish humanitarian workers who worked in the camps,” he said.

Gil noted the Spanish government continues to maintain its warning to Spanish humanitarian workers against going to the Tindouf camps, after the kidnapping of two Spaniards there in October 2011.

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