The British tend to be very sniffy about US TV’s international coverage, because the Americans supposedly report little and know less of the world outside.
But British TV is just as bad.
Major events in China, the Far East and India, in Africa and South America go totally unreported and unknown on UK TV, where the same parochial 5 or 6 stories get repeated in each half hour or quarter hour of our news bulletins.
My friend Lynn, with her husband Frank, has been travelling in West Africa.
Whoever hears anything in the UK about the Ivory Coast or the ongoing pirate problem in the Gulf of Guinea?
This missive from Lynn is from Morocco… or maybe it is from Western Sahara. It depends on your political viewpoint.
We have maintained email silence whilst travelling through Western Sahara and Morocco. All the maps were taken down and information removed as they showed Western Sahara and we were told not to carry anything with a mention of it and especially not a photo of the SADR (Sahrawi Arab Democratic Front) flag and to only refer to the country as Morocco.
I was told that, on 29th March this year, following a UN report, the Polisario (recognised by the UN as the official body for the Sahrawi) withdrew their road blocks on the Mauritanian border and agreed a ceasefire and that Morocco had offered semi-autonomy to the region but not sovereignty.
Morocco has the support of France and the USA, whereas Algeria supports the Polisario/Sahrawi arabs.
I was also told that the Moroccans have built a 1,700 mile wall north to south and there are varying accounts of 5-10 million landmines.
Last October, the International Court of Justice’s verdict was to hold a referendum.
Referenda have been mooted several times but never held, with Mauritania withdrawing decades ago and abandoning their claim. Moroccans are being resettled in the south to increase numbers and the building projects are prolific but eerie as there are so few people or evidence of habitation in all the new parks, playgrounds, office blocks, government buildings, airport and railway stations. Even the enormous barracks and gendarmerie seemed deserted. It all has the feel of a vacant film set.
We drove to the largest city, Laayoune, literally a city in the desert, 10 miles from the Atlantic Ocean with nothing else around it for 1,000 miles. Perhaps everyone was told to stay indoors until we left, much as we were told to behave until we had avoided the pirates in the Gulf of Guinea.
In fact, it appears that we were the news in Laayoune.
To add to our armed police escort, there were armed traffic police to close roads on the route as we travelled in convoy, the army to guard our lunch stop at a nomadic Sahrawi Arab camp, armed tourist police, plain clothes police and, to add to the circus, a TV crew was with us all day.
A TV interviewer appeared at the Sahrawi camp but I didn’t get an answer on who he or his interviewee were.
There were also photographers (one of whom was plain clothes police determined to get a head shot of everyone and unamused by Frank’s gurning and back-turning).
All were seriously twitchy about cameras so no usable photos.