efe-epaMadrid

Nazha al Khalidi says she was beaten and arrested by Moroccan authorities for using her phone to record and live-stream events on social media in Western Sahara.

The 26-year-old reporter now awaits trial in Morocco for practising journalism without being qualified to do so.

"It was so clear from the beginning when I just got arrested that the Moroccan authorities took me by force, just beating me up on the public streets, and took my phone by force, because I was recording a video, live-streaming on my personal Facebook page," Al Khalidi told Efe in an interview in Madrid.

She said she and her colleagues carry out their work from rooftops in order to avoid getting into any difficulties with the Moroccan authorities.

Western Sahara is a disputed territory, partially controlled by the Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic and partially by Morocco.

Al Khalidi forms part of a group of young people who have decided to go into journalism in order to document "violations against human rights in the occupied territory and the Moroccan abuses against Sahrawi human beings," she said.

Three of her colleagues were currently in prison serving sentences of six, 20 and 25 years, "just because they are doing the same as we do," she told Efe.

The reporter said she and her colleagues use social networks as a way of flagging up human rights violations, adding that their position on the ground made them a "trustworthy source."

Al Khalidi is a member of the Equipe Media group, which was in Spain at the invitation of the Association of Solidarity with Western Sahara in Seville. Equipe Media just received the XII Julio Anguita Parrado International Journalism Award for being the only professionals in the field in Western Sahara, which was ruled by Spain in the past.

Al Khalidi has been working as a reporter since 2010, during which time she has been detained on three occasions.

Her last arrest was on Dec. 4 when she was covering a peaceful demonstration in Laayoune that was held over the resumption of talks in Geneva between the pro-independence Polisario Front and Morocco in a bid to resolve the 43-year-old territorial dispute over Western Sahara.

Days after Al Khalidi was detained, beaten and had her phone confiscated, she received a notification that she was being accused of practising the profession without qualifications.

"I belong to a family which has suffered a lot by Moroccan oppression, all my brothers have experienced torture," she said. "Morocco has succeeded to hide the reality, hide the real life of the Sahrawis in the occupied territories."

The young reporter had previously been detained on Aug. 21, 2016 while covering a women's demonstration, spending a night at a police station and later being released without charges.

Al Khalidi said she was feeling nervous ahead of her trial on May 20 in Laayoune. She stands accused of usurping a title without fulfilling the necessary conditions, which under Article 381 of the Moroccan Penal Code, could result in between three months to two years of imprisonment and a fine.

According to her, this the first instance of Moroccan courts trying a Sahrawi reporter under this charge.

She said the media and military blockade by Morocco had been going on for decades, "we spent whole our life, we were born and grew up under repression, persecution and we were silent for a very very long time."

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