At the beginning of November the BBC World Service produced two items concerning a decades-old conflict involving an invasion, disputed territory, thousands of people living in refugee camps and more than twenty years of failed negotiations.
However, BBC audiences did not hear the words ‘occupied’ or ‘illegal under international law’ as they so frequently do in content relating to Israel. In fact, what they did hear in those two programmes was a nostalgic and sympathetic portrayal of Morocco’s ‘Green March’ into Western Sahara in 1975.
The audio version of that episode of ‘Witness’ uses the term “disputed territory” in its synopsis.
“In November 1975, King Hassan the Second ordered hundreds of thousands of Moroccans to march into disputed territory in the desert. He wanted to claim the colony of Spanish Sahara for Morocco. The Green March led to a diplomatic victory for the King, but sparked a guerrilla war and decades of instability in the region. Witness speaks to a Moroccan who was on the march.”
The synopsis to the filmed version of the same programme uses the same term.
“Forty years ago, the King of Morocco ordered hundreds of thousands of Moroccans to march into the Sahara desert to claim an area of disputed territory from Spain. The Green March, as it became known, was instigated in part to boost King Hassan the Second’s faltering support at home and sparked a long guerrilla war.
Moroccan TV journalist, Seddik Maaninou, was on the march and spoke to Witness about a turning point in North African history.”
The BBC Academy’s style guide entry for Western Sahara describes it as “[d]isputed territory administered by Morocco” and readers will not find terms such as ‘occupied’ or ‘international law’ in the corporation’s profile of Western Sahara.