Interviewing Ignacio Cembrero, Spanish journalist in Morocco

El País, 15th May 2012

[By Andrea Sánchez Ibarbia]

Ignacio Cembrero is a veteran Spanish journalist whose career swings from Europe to its North African neighbours, but who is disappointed and bored by the immobility of the Old Continent and increasingly looks to the south. I have talked to him in order to know a bit about his life and also about his opinion in many issues that he has lived in the countries he has worked.

Andrea Sánchez. We all know about your professional career, but could you make us a brief summarize of it? I mean, tell us about you experience at the journalistic world.

Ignacio Cembrero. Well, is a journalistic trajectory that oscillates between the Arab World and Europe, the foreign policy of Europe, with a small parenthesis in the European Commission in end 90s. And at the moment I use to work with the North of Africa.

AS. You are a man who has an excellent professional experience in this world, why did you decide to focus on the Arab countries and Magreb?

IC. Well, I thinks that there is always a combination of many factors. On the one hand, one of those factors is, of course, the chance, and on the other hand, the other factor is that the Arab Countries and also the countries from Magreb are our south neighbours, many of them unknown but they are quite important for Europe and specially for Spain.

In addition, it consists on a very interesting topic to talk about. Secondly, I think that these countries have societies with lots of problems. Nowadays we complain about the crisis but who really is living a crisis are this countries.

Then, talking about Middle East, as I have said, it has been one of my assignments in the past and I am absolutely sure that is the most conflictive area of the world.


AS. After reading many of your publications in “El País” , the Spanish Newspaper, Morocco is one of the places about which you more write, ¿What attracts your attention of it?

IC. What I think that Morocco has, is that is a country that interests to Spain but it doesn’t mean that this country is the most important one. However, as I have said, I repeat that Morocco is the country that most interests to customers, but I think that Argelia, due to other reasons, is also a very relevant territory because it is almost a bordering country, it is 130 km far from the coast.

AS. A piece of news that has been published two weeks ago, named “ Mohamed VI aborta la islamización de la TV que planeaba el gobierno” , what do you think about it?

IC. I think it is a very interesting topic to talk about because since January there is a new government, mainly Islamic, it is a coalition government. I also think that it is very interesting the “back and forth” that exists between the government and the Royal Palace, although as last resort the role of the Palace is the one that finally wins and commands. But in the end, this is a new phenomenon that didn’t exist in Morocco and now is the first time in which we see many different points of view. However, I repeat that the arbitration is taken by the Royalty and not by the government.


AS. Which is the role of the Islamic radicals in the Moroccan policy?

IC. There exists a lifestyle with more play comparing it now with some years ago. Now they are used to have bigger political life spaces but well, the Moroccan political system is not possible to be compared with the European systems, just because they are not similar and it doesn’t matter the monarchies, republics among other. Even the monarchies that we are used to have in Europe, don’t have nothing to do with the one established in Morocco, although the new Constitution has come into force on the last 1st July.


AS. How is the society in Morocco?

IC. The society has lots of tensions and contradictions, it is a very conservative society in all his elements, I would say. However, it is a nation that looks for progress, for something much better. That’s why there is a big temptation to emigrate, although in these days it has been reduced because Europe is submerged in a deep crisis which makes it to be less attractive.

Another important point that differences this society from the European one, is that this nation is impregnated of religion. Despite most of them are Muslim cities, it is important to say that not all of them are. In addition, it is a society in which for example the woman, although there has been a reform in 2003, is not legally situated in the same position as the man.

AS. We have observed that you have a Blog whose name is Orilla Sur, in which most of your publications are related to all the events that have happened this last year, in the North of Africa. The last publication that you have done is called “Marruecos: ¿Un primer ministro mal informado o misógino? “ makes us think about the woman, which one is her situation there?

IC. Well, I consider that the woman situation after applying the law of 2003 has changed and improved something, but overall with the introduction of the new Personal Statute. This Statute has provoked to make the polygamy difficult and the engagement of a teen girl. However, I would say that this new law has been moving back after January 2012 with the formation of the new government and the appointment of high positions.

At the moment, in the new government that has been stated, there is only a Islamic  woman which has worked in the government for a long time. Many years before there were, if I remember, three or four women in the government,  so this is undoubtedly a step to the back for the situation of the woman.

Then, I keep in mind, that in general there has been a higher Islamization and this means that women are forced to adapt behaviours that not all of them assume and obviously they are obliged to wear more modest clothes and as conclusion the women in this case plays a secondary role in the society.

AS. What other countries have you written about? Which one do you think is the most characteristic to write about?

IC. Well, I’ve written about lots of countries but overall about the North of Africa and Siria. I consider that there is no characteristic one because they must be studied separately. I say that because countries are very different and the situation too.

AS. You carry on a very large trajectory as a journalist, which moments do you consider that have been the most difficult? Which one has been your worse and difficult situation you have lived?

IC. So, for me, the epoch in which I have most suffered has been in the years 2002-2003, after the tension that existed between Spain and Morocco, the Perejil Island crisis. That stages were very difficult for a Spanish journalist, it was very difficult to work there in that circumstances. Since that epoch it has improved something. But in conclusion, 2002 and 2003 have been the most difficult times, there have been ups and downs but overall that moment was the most complicated.

So, I have finished with questions and I have to conclude that Ignacio Cembrero is an expert in talking about topics related to Magreb and North Africa. Thank you very much for answering the questions I have already proposed.


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