Morocco is trying to recover from the brutal earthquake. Yahya Bellahcen, director of CAP Radio Morocco, spoke to the microphones of "De Cara al Mundo" on Onda Madrid to analyse the situation in Morocco after the earthquake and the government's plans for the future in terms of social restructuring and infrastructures.
The Moroccan people are setting an example of solidarity because, in addition to everything the authorities are doing, Moroccans are helping with their money, with their blood, buying and sending food and water.
Yes, indeed, and this is normal because on several occasions, unfortunately in difficult situations, the Moroccan people have shown solidarity in the face of tragedy. For example, speaking of the earthquake or other situations, in the face of the latest tragedy suffered by the whole world, Morocco, and in particular the Moroccan people, showed great solidarity during the COVID.
In the pandemic, it was easy to see that the Moroccan people are a people who adapt quickly to any situation, and in this case the Moroccan people offer their help, they offer their blood, they offer everything they have, even the poor people offer their support, psychological support to reassure them, to be there and to support them, even the Moroccan people are used to support the government, to support private organisations, to support any entity that can give a solution or help Morocco to get out of a crisis, for example, the one we are talking about right now, which is the earthquake.
In Marrakech, the tourist city par excellence, the old part of the medina has been damaged, 18 of the 3,000 dead are from Marrakech, but normality has returned to the city while we wait to rebuild what was damaged.
Marrakech is still fantastic, people who want to visit Marrakech can have a great time, and there is no need to help the needy or do anything similar. Of course, there is damage, but it only affects a few protected areas. Even tourists, for example, who will go - those who are already there know what we mean - will see that there will be barriers, small barriers in very limited places that protect tourists. Most of Marrakech remains the same, untouched. I want to make it clear that I am not saying this to reassure people; instead, we will say that what happened in Marrakech is not at all what we can imagine today and that there may be ruins everywhere. Not at all. The red city has not yet been affected.
We as communicators, moreover, must focus the information well, avoid unjustified alarms because tourism can continue to come to Morocco without any problems whatsoever.
And that is what is happening. From my position as a journalist, I am committed to the neutrality with which the message must be conveyed; we must not exaggerate in conveying information that does not reveal the reality. We are talking about tourism that has hardly changed. It's just that excursions outside Marrakech have really been affected, that's normal, to make sure that nothing will happen to our tourists. But inside Marrakech people are having a good time, they are enjoying themselves.
What would you say to those colleagues who are not sticking to reality?
For colleagues, journalists and others who usually like to exaggerate, we can tell them that seeing things is not like reading or listening to them. People are seeing what is happening in Marrakech, they are seeing videos of people having a good time, life is back to normal. So the journalist has to say what is on the ground, what is the reality.
That's Yahya. In fact, just this Monday and Tuesday, the Spanish national television channel TVE broadcast live for the news from the Jemaa el-Fnaa, and the square was full, people dining in the bars, cafes open, tourists; there was total normality. Everything was under a sad and mournful command because of the tragedy in the Atlas, but the city of Marrakech was still functioning normally. Can both the Moroccan economy and the Moroccans cope with a situation like this?
They are dealing with it. The flexibility, the diversity of the Moroccan economy, which has normally shown, in a very clear and real way, that it can face any situation, as happened recently with COVID, or as has happened in other situations. We must always have confidence in the Moroccan economy because the private sector is growing remarkably.
With regard to the public sector, it is also improving its way of guaranteeing or giving guarantees to all the people who want to do research, who want, for example, to invest their money in Morocco, especially in the digital field. Morocco has made very important leaps in this area. As journalists, we can say, according to the information we are analysing and transmitting, that the Moroccan economy will not be affected. Although it is true that for a short period of time the economy slowed down, but today everything is back to normal, especially in Marrakech. All the shops, all the markets, all the shopping malls are open, so the economy is back on track.
How important is the mixed system for the country's recovery?
It is a mixed economy, with an important public sector where the private sector is also growing. The tourism sector is also one of the main economic activities in the country. So those three, the public sector and the private sector, together, can ensure that the Moroccan economy is not so affected. In addition, Morocco's economic experience is also relevant, particularly when looking at how Morocco and the public-private sector behave in this kind of situation, where Morocco usually prevails and learns from the past. Therefore, based on the information we have, we can predict that the Moroccan economy will recover more strongly than before than what is happening now.
Yahya, I wanted to comment, the Moroccan Government, with King Mohammed VI at the head, analysed the existing needs to deal with the damage of the earthquake and help the victims and accepted the international aid that was most useful and that was most effective and operational. There is no need to look for any further twists and turns or to avoid entering into absurd polemics.
My answer is simply that sovereignty must be respected. Several countries - and we thank them, of course - have offered their help. Morocco, in order to organise the rescue, in order to return the situation to the way it was before, has decided to choose four countries. One of these countries is Spain. If not, we have to wait for Morocco to give the go-ahead to help. Keeping myself ready in case Morocco needs my help is all I have to do if you don't give me the go-ahead.
However, if you are confident that you can escape this situation or crisis amicably and without incident with the support of four nations, and the evidence suggests that we work together more effectively in these nations than in others, we must respect.
You need not experience any frustration. If a country offered assistance, but received a negative response, it would need to focus more on communicating the reality of what is actually happening in the country. I will not accept our help, so don't just look for solutions. We usually do not understand the motivation behind everyone's fierce search for a solution. Even if I refrain from generalisations, there are certainly some nations where journalism is practised in this way, but there are also nations that have benefited from aid. Morocco stopped responding to the petition and instead started talking about what was really important, the situation of the people and how to support them, as well as how to handle the problems in a more professional way.
Yes, it is very different how the tragedy has been dealt with in the United States than how it has been dealt with France, because the problem of relations between Morocco and France is not new. There are problems that have been dragging on with France.
As journalists, we cannot answer this question because the Moroccan government is the one who has to answer and affirm or deny this. The Moroccan government is the one who has to answer and give explanations, why or why not, and it is free to answer or not to answer. But what we as journalists have to do is to analyse what is fair. What is fair? One country offered its help and the other country did not respond to the request. So journalists have to focus on what is fair, what is normal, which is the situation of what is happening there.
We have to focus on the human side, because at the end of the day we have to deal with the human side, not go into other things that usually give us the feeling that something is being sought. We as Moroccans and as journalists here in Morocco don't need those things that they are looking for. If we don't accept your help for the moment, and we're not saying that we don't accept, maybe it's not your turn to help, maybe at the level of the organisation it's enough what has been offered so far, things like that. But please, if you have to deal with things, you have to deal with them in a professional way, not to look for something unprofessional.
The relationship with Spain remains good, fortunately. Just before the earthquake tragedy, do you think that the earthquake may or may not have influenced the efforts being made in the region by the US Under-Secretary of State, and also by the UN special envoy, to speed up the solution to the Sahara dispute?
As journalists, we have data that guarantees us the following: every crisis, every moment is like a kind of test that gives you results. For us, if there is collaboration on the part of a country and that country has treated us as a partner, it treats Morocco as a true partner. You are offering help and that help is being offered to help the human side, to help a real partner. That counts, we have to take that into consideration.
As a journalist, I can say that the relationship with Spain has always been very correct. If there is something that happened, then it is something between the governments and it has its points to be clarified, we don't go into that, because they have all the freedom to deal with things as they are. But we as journalists can say the following, that relations between Spain and Morocco have always been very strong and will remain the same, because what unites Spain and Morocco is more than what separates us. So, yes, it will continue with the same strength, it has always been a strong relationship. So, if there is something negative somewhere, at some point, or something like that, it is normal. That happens even at the level of individuals, even between siblings this happens. But in general Spain has always shown that it is a true partner and Morocco has shown the same. So we will be the same and better than before, of course.