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Friday, 29 November, 2002, 14:13 GMT
Africa's press reflect on Miss World riots

The bloody riots in northern Nigeria sparked by Muslim anger over the Miss World pageant generated much comment in African papers this week.

The fact that the violence was triggered by a newspaper article led some to focus on the media's role and responsibilities.

Kenya's East African Standard was scathing about what it saw as the consequences of "irresponsible journalism".


Could a newspaper article alone trigger the kind of mayhem the world has witnessed

The Star - South Africa

"Even though the history of humanity is replete with religious wars, never before has any been fought around a beauty pageant, and never before has a reckless statement by a journalist been blamed for so many deaths," it said in an editorial.

What should have been a happy moment for Nigeria and Africa "has turned into a sad commentary on irresponsible journalism and religious sensitivities".

As Nigeria mourns the dead "it is important to understand what reckless references can do to a highly polarised society with precarious religious sensibilities," the paper said.

Not at peace

Gambia's Daily Observer too sounded a call for "responsible" journalism in the wake of events.

"We have seen how irresponsible journalism has torn apart the social stability of some countries in sub-Saharan Africa. Rwanda, DR Congo and Nigeria are cases in point," it said.

But South Africa's The Star was sceptical of the idea that the offending article in Lagos-based This Day was solely to blame for what happened.


Nigeria is a microcosm of what is going on in the rest of the continent

The Nation - Kenya

"Could a newspaper article alone trigger the kind of mayhem the world has witnessed... The truth is that Nigeria is not a nation at peace with itself. There are serious religious and political tensions that have been boiling for a long time," it said.

The paper said that while the media "should have been aware of the issue of religious sensitivities, it should not conceal possible real motives behind the violence - a desire to return to a time when certain people benefited from the patronage of the military regime and corruption."

'We seek forgiveness'

Kenya's The Nation said the violence "raises a matter of serious concern throughout Africa."

"This is because life in Nigeria is a microcosm of what is going on in the rest of the continent... While the killings deserve to be condemned in the strongest terms, it is also incumbent upon analysts and decision makers to delve further into the issue before passing it off as a Nigerian or African problem," it said.

In Nigeria itself, offending newspaper This Day could not apologise enough, and days after the violence was declaring itself "still dazed by this sad development".

"We can only plead that we mean no harm. The error was totally unintended... Whatever errors we made were not intentional. We seek forgiveness from all our Muslim brothers and sisters," its chairman said in one of several published apologies.

Stoking the embers

A commentary in Lagos' Vanguard meanwhile said that while those whose religious sensibilities were offended had the right to protest, "the violent dimension of such protest resulting in wanton destruction of lives and property is disturbing."


A tragedy of this nature feeds on itself

The Guardian - Nigeria

The paper remained worried that "gypsy idle youths in the north remain cannon fodder in the hands of religious and opinion leaders who are dissatisfied with the status quo and stoke the embers of religious hate at the slightest opportunity."

Writing in the daily Guardian, another commentator saw grave implications in the Kaduna violence.

"The greatest damage may be to the fabric of nationhood... A tragedy of this nature feeds on itself," the writer said.

"Religion per se was not the single most critical factor. Bigotry and intolerance played a part... The gradual disintegration of the Nigerian state is dramatically evident in this," he added.

BBC Monitoring, based in Caversham in southern England, selects and translates information from radio, television, press, news agencies and the Internet from 150 countries in more than 70 languages.

 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
Alhaji Lateef Adegbite on Network Africa
"We should not encourage Muslims who act on that declaration"

Talking PointTALKING POINT
Miss World row
What next for Nigeria?
 VOTE RESULTS
Was the press to blame for Miss World fiasco?

Yes
 49.23% 

No
 50.77% 

130 Votes Cast

Results are indicative and may not reflect public opinion


Miss World row

Analysis

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25 Nov 02 | Africa
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