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Last Updated: Tuesday, 29 May 2007, 22:51 GMT 23:51 UK
YouTube site 'blocked' in Morocco
A computer shows YouTube (file image)
Videos about Western Sahara have been posted on YouTube
Internet users in Morocco who have been unable to access YouTube have voiced concern that it is being deliberately blocked by the authorities.

Many Moroccans have been unable to see the video-sharing site since 25 May.

Some people have linked the problem to videos critical of Morocco's actions in Western Sahara, a disputed territory which Morocco took control of in 1975.

But state-controlled service provider Maroc Telecom said the problem was the result of a technical glitch.

A spokesman for the Moroccan government said he could not comment on telecommunications issues, the Associated Press news agency reported.

Territorial dispute

Media watchdog Reporters Without Borders expressed concern over the apparent blocking of the site.

"We wonder how a 'technical problem' can affect only one website," it said in a statement.

Users who accessed the internet through other privately-owned Moroccan service providers were still able to visit the YouTube site, the group pointed out.

Bloggers and some internet users agreed. "They've clearly blocked YouTube," university student Abdelhakim Albarkani told AP.

Map of Western Sahara

"I'm worried, because YouTube allowed us to see things the state newspapers and television won't show," he said.

Reporters Without Borders linked the apparent blocking to videos showing pro-independence demonstrations in Western Sahara.

One such, posted in December 2006, says it shows police beating female protesters in the Western Saharan city of Laayoune.

The desert territory was seized by Morocco and Mauritania in 1975 after the colonial power, Spain, pulled out.

Fighting erupted the following year and Morocco took over most of the region after Mauritania withdrew in 1978.

Since then, the Algerian-backed separatist movement Polisario Front have been fighting for an independent state in Western Sahara.

UN efforts to settle the issue foundered in 2004 when Morocco rejected a plan that would have offered the Western Saharan people a referendum on independence, but the two sides recently agreed to more talks.

In pictures: Africa's forgotten war
01 May 07 |  In Pictures
Regions and territories: Western Sahara
18 Aug 05 |  Country profiles

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