A Very Special Correspondent
By Jawad Ghandi
Javier Otazu, is a former correspondent in Rabat for the Spanish news agency EFE. He is an ambivalent man, but also a “frustrated” journalist.
In a nutshell, Ignacio Cembrero, his alter ego in paid anti-Maroccanism who penned the prologue to his book on Morocco, reveals this double face that Otazu had been wearing for 16 years when it comes to the Moroccan reality.
For a normal man, it must not be easy to live in duplicity for 16 long years, divided between two different periods which correspond to his two mandates as Morocco-based journalist for the Spanish outlet.
His hypocrisy should be hard to bear when he said in the morning to his supposed Moroccan friends all the good things he thought of their country and how happy he was to live an exciting human and professional experience among them, in a captivating country. And when evening came, he wrote the opposite of what he said. A heavy duplicity to assume for a normally full-fledged journalist. This was not the case with Agent Otazu.
Upon leaving Morocco on August 6, 2020, Otazu undertakes a task of “de-frustration” by venting all his “Euskerian” venom into a book on Morocco. The picture he paints is a genuine anthology of resentment, animosity and relentlessness against a country that mothered him. Few anti-Moroccan authors can claim such a performance, since the author claims to have held his tongue in check for ten years before speaking. Imagine ten years of frustration being swept away all at once!
The honorable correspondent Otazu is presented pompously by his editor as an honorable “specialist” of Morocco and the Arab world. Except that he was a very special “specialist”.
His coverage of Moroccan news was made up of a series of unscrupulous tricks. His favorite subjects are sickeningly treacherous and slyly malevolent. He chose pieces of information relating to virginity tests, a kiss on facebook, the role of the Moqaddem or even untruths about certain cases dealt with by the courts.
His little leftist nerd glasses from the 70s and his before-time whitened “mane” lavished on him the status of the next door neighbor that we would invite to tea more often. He talked about Morocco with considerate courtesy. He spoke with amazement about his walks in the Benslimane forest and his trekking in the Chefchaouen region or in the High Atlas. All these years of adventures and idleness have not softened his attitude towards Morocco and his people.
His personal journey did not predestine him to wallow and sink into the hatred of Morocco. Born in February 1966 in a small town near Pamplona in northern Spain, Otazu married a Moroccan woman with whom he had two children. He is therefore the father of two Moroccan-Spanish kids who live with their mother after a tumultuous break-up.
His Moroccan story started in 1990 when he was appointed EFE’s journalist in Rabat. He remained in this post until 1996. In 2011, he succeeded Enrique Rubio as head of the Rabat office after a journey that took him to Cairo and then to Lima.
Resentment, it is said, sometimes dies hard.
The seven chapters of his book-reflux on Morocco are an indictment worthy of the inquisition courts. We find there pell-mell his obsession with the migration issue, his feigned astonishment vis-à-vis Morocco’s claims on the occupied cities, his guilty attitude in the face of Moroccans’ unanimity on the Sahara question, his far-fetched accusations on a presumed “decline” of democratic freedoms in Morocco….
But the Gérard d’Or of his relentlessness against the Kingdom is won by his unhealthy fixation on the subject of the Moroccan Sahara.
Like an obsession, the Sahara question keeps coming up like a leitmotif in his 104-page diatribe. He does not hesitate to speak with a learned air of the “Sahrawi republic” as an entity endowed with the attributes of a State, that his own country Spain, obviously does not recognize.
And without flinching, he designates the chief separatist, the so-called Brahim Ghali, who was hospitalized last April in Spain under a false identity, as the “Sahrawi president”, while he knows very well that there is neither a republic nor a president in the Lahmada camps. It is a way of his own to twist reality and to try to convince, by a semantic game, the very few people who will read his pamphlet, that the polisario, Algeria’s puppet, is unavoidable.
Unable to find a taker for his rantings, Javier Otazu went even far in his overaction to the extent that he offered his book on Morocco on social networks as a Christmas present. More humble, you die!
In a burst of immeasurable blindness — as in a sort of self-description — he does not hesitate to speak of Morocco as a “rogue state” (Estado Gamberro). The border of decency and self-esteem has now been crossed, because Javier Otazu, on leaving Morocco, considers himself free from all professional dignity and all ethical constraints.
For the record, the day after November 13, 2020, he was invited to join a pool of journalists to cover the reopening of the Guerguarate checkpoint by the Royal Armed Forces. Ignoring the basic rules of security in a military zone, he insisted on going alone without anyone knowing how to claw his way in a military zone without his life being endangered. Faced with the refusal of the Moroccan authorities who could not guarantee his safety, he began to overact to divert attention from his ethical failure which was going to oblige him to recognize the stubborn fact that the FAR controlled the area without having fired a single shot, as well as witnessing the resumption of trade with sub-Saharan Africa.
By settling in EFE’s premises at the United Nations, Javier Otazu will continue his undermining. He runs through the corridors of the UN like a hysterical specialist in “asking prepaid questions” on the Moroccan Sahara. He misses no opportunity to distill his venom, on the wire of the agency and in the corridors and the press room, when the Sahara affair is mentioned. Worse, he misinforms his colleagues who, when they are ethically weak, follow him in his outrageous manipulations. He made his Twitter account a parallel and personal news agency to vent his hatred for Morocco.
One example among others: after the adoption of the last resolution on the Sahara by the Security Council, Javier Otazu regretted, with a heavy heart, that the text was “closer to Moroccan theses”. Without showing any restraint imposed on him by the ethical rules instilled in novice agency staff.
Javier Otazu dreamed of seeing Morocco collapse. The litany of lies told on the question of Moroccan Sahara, the demonstrations in the Rif region, the occupied Sebta, the issue of migration and human rights, as well as on certain “faits divers” is a case study that few correspondents, even the slightest bit scrupulous, are able to display.
In a frenzied anti-Moroccanism, on July 19, 2021, just days before leaving Morocco, Javier Otazu posted 8 tweets in a row on legal issues concerning journalists charged with sex offenses and convicted terrorists condemned by the courts.
A way of saying before flying to New York that it is the fate of these people that matters to him, before that of 36 million Moroccans. No word uttered for the country that opened its arms to him during 16 years.
When the Benbattouche affair broke out in May 2021, technically Javier Otazu was no longer dealing with current events relating to Morocco. However, he expressed his regrets to see that Morocco had friends in Spain who criticized the Madrid government’s blunder.
In a narrow mind like his, Morocco should not have friends in Spain. For him, the 47 million people of this neighboring country are supposed to be potential enemies of Morocco.
For a journalist, the fact of covering a country for 16 years is an almost unique opportunity to talk about its successes, achievements, people, nature, history and future and to speak about its failures and challenges while respecting ethics and balance.
However, for Javier Otazu, the 16 years spent in Morocco have come down to four resounding failures.
First, he continuously conveyed a distorted image about the Moroccan reality.
Second, his dream to see Morocco on its knees was dashed.
Third, he missed the opportunity to contribute, through professional and unbiased work, to bringing together the two peoples who have a long common history.
Fourth, his personal life was crushed down.
In this miserable and inglorious role, Javier Otazu would have been, in another life, one of King Alfonso VIII’s lieutenants on the eve of Alarcos battle. Obsessed with the Almohad empire, His advisers conveyed to him a reality that is only a figment of their own imagination. The ensuing debacle is recounted in detail by chroniclers of the era.