Google's internet maps system is an extraordinarily useful tool. However, since mid-July, Google has become involved in a diplomatic fracas over ownership of a small Moroccan island.
Lila - a long way from Spain
Now, if you are Spanish, you will be jumping up and down at our statement about the island being Moroccan. The island of Lila ("night") is basically a rock some 200 metres off the Moroccan coast. Lila, not much bigger than a soccer field, was renamed by the Spanish as "Isla de Perejil" ("Parsley Island") and for reasons best known to themselves they have claimed it as Spanish territory. The recent diplomatic problem was caused when Google Maps marked the lump of rock as being Moroccan territory.
The two countries were locked in a military stand-off over the island in July 2002 when Spain sent in the military to eject a group of Moroccan soldiers who had set up camp there.The incident threatened Spanish and Moroccan diplomatic relations and was resolved only after the US brokered a deal to remove all forces from the territory.
In 2004 both countries signed an agreement in Washington that stated ownership was "under review" and could be claimed by neither. However, the Google Maps incident has sparked a fresh war of words.
Sadly, commonsense has not prevailed and Spain has pressured Google to "correct" its "mistake". "We have confirmation that a mistake was made and the correction will follow," a spokesman from Google Spain said, adding that it would henceforth be marked as a "disputed territory". Well, at least they got that bit right.
THE OTHER SPANISH PROBLEM
- The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) backed its Moroccan affiliate, the Syndicat national de la presse marocaine (SNPM), which condemned Spanish officials in the Spanish occupied city of Melillia over the treatment of two Moroccan journalists who were briefly detained on the border, questioned and denied entry in the city.
"Restricting movement of journalists on duty without a valid reason is a violation of their rights," said Aidan White, IFJ General Secretary. "The events in Melillia matter to the Moroccan public and Spanish authorities should avoid unnecessary action which hinders the work of media covering the events in the city."
According to the SNPM, two cameramen of la Société nationale de radiodiffusion et de télévision (SNRT), Abderahim El Bouhedioui (2M) and Rachid Laâtabi (Al Oula), were arrested by border guards in Melillia and questioned at the police station on the reasons for their visit to the city. Three other journalists, Badiaâ Zekhnini (SNRT), Azzedine Lamrini (Al Ahdat Al Maghribiya newspaper) and Said Youssi (MAP press agency) had their passports confiscated by Spanish police. The group was later refused entry and returned to the Moroccan city of Nador.
One SNPM board member in the city reportedly said the actions of Spanish officials were designed to "frustrate the work of Moroccan journalists, particularly broadcast reporters, following their coverage of the Spanish forces' recent clampdown on the Moroccan population living in Melillia."