Page last updated at 16:16 GMT, Wednesday, 21 January 2009

World media on Obama inauguration

Following Barack Obama's inauguration as the 44th US president, commentary in the international media focussed on his ability to carry out a mandate for change. Many expected any such change to be gradual.

Newspapers in Iran, Russia and the Middle East welcomed George W Bush's departure from the White House and hoped that the Obama presidency would usher in a new era of US foreign policy.

Voices in the Chinese and Israeli media, in contrast, expressed hope that President Obama would continue to develop the bilateral ties strengthened by his predecessor.

Below are excerpts collected by BBC Monitoring.


Iranian domestic TV broadcast no live coverage of Barack Obama's inauguration. But IRTV2 later broadcast a roundtable discussion entitled "Obama, hopes and fears".

The general view was that Iran should adopt a wait-and-see policy towards the new president, though the guests were sceptical about the possibility of a significant change of attitude towards Iran or the region.

In contrast, Iran's international TV networks broadcast the inauguration live and carried commentary and debate. Iran's Arabic network Al-Alam hosted a debate in which analyst Mahmud Ramadan said there were "centres of power and lobbies that control US strategy towards Iran and Syria", and that these were unlikely to change.

Newspapers were divided in their coverage, with the conservative press celebrating the departure of George W Bush and the reformist press expressing hope of a change in US attitudes.

The conservative Jam-e-Jam said that the American people had "announced that they want change. However, considering the nature of the political structure in America, it seems that Obama cannot do a lot".

The reformist E'temad contended that Barack Obama was aware that "the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and the agitated situation in the Middle East are the biggest enemies of his slogan of 'change' and he has to put an end to these disorders".

The paper hoped that the US would now "recognise Iran as a regional power and respect Iran's legitimate rights in respect of its nuclear activities".


None of the main bulletins on Russian TV on the evening of 20 January led with the inauguration of Barack Obama. Instead, state channels led with President Medvedev's visit to Ingushetia and devoted more time to the aftermath of the Russia-Ukraine gas dispute.

Only the official channel Rossiya provided an analysis of the new US presidency in its main evening bulletin, saying that it was unlikely to live up to expectations.

The Rossiya report also noted that the new president had expressed doubts about the missile defence shield in Europe, but suggested this was not the fundamental reason for a recent deterioration in relations.

"If the US halted the expansion of Nato, and did not accept Georgia and Ukraine into the organisation, I think it would be much easier to solve all the other problems, including missile defence," analyst Stephen Cohen was shown saying.

In a morning bulletin on Wednesday, Gazprom-owned NTV drew attention to the challenges facing the new president, saying: "America has got a new president but the old problems remain... Yesterday's trading session in Wall Street was the worst of all inauguration days."

Several voices in Russia's press debated the degree to which the policies of the new president would differ from those of his predecessor. Writing in state-owned daily Rossiyskaya Gazeta, Nikolay Zlobin said that, although "Barack Obama is not George Bush in any way", it was true that "his approaches to many fundamental problems facing the country and the world as a whole won't differ that much".

Heavyweight liberal daily Kommersant, in an article entitled "Barack Obama goes down in history", said that "in fact, the 44th US president has already joined America's greatest leaders without having done anything yet".


Chinese state-controlled media censored parts of Barack Obama's inauguration speech. The state-run news channel CCTV broadcast the speech live from Washington, but faded out pictures as references to communism were translated.

Another part of the inauguration speech criticising governments that "cling to power through corruption and deceit and the silencing of dissent" was also removed from the speech translated into Chinese, although both sections were carried in English.

The reference to previous US generations' fight against fascism and communism was also removed from a transcript of the speech published in Chinese by the state-run Xinhua news agency.

Sections of the Chinese press highlighted the urgent foreign-policy challenges facing Barack Obama. The hope was also expressed that Mr Obama would continue the friendly policies of his predecessor towards China.

The overseas edition of Beijing-based Renmin Ribao noted that despite the fact that "for Obama, Middle East diplomacy remains a road strewn with thorns", he has already demonstrated a "flexibility, pragmatism and willingness to negotiate [which] is definitely a good thing for the world".

Beijing's China Daily hoped that "the new administration will carry on and consolidate its predecessor's effective policy of developing a rapport with China, as a healthy Sino-US relationship is key to the two countries as well as to the rest of the world".


Coverage of the inauguration in the Middle East Arabic press focused on the hope that Obama would bring a more "balanced" approach to Middle East policy than George W Bush.

Nevertheless, it was pointed out that Mr Obama would not be able to work "miracles" and that a change in US policy in the Middle East would be a gradual affair.

Jordan's independent, pro-government Al-Ra'y said: "Obama will not perform miracles and it would be silly for Arabs to think that he will support them if they do not help themselves. However, at worst he will not be as bad as Bush and he is supposed to make a change in line with his slogans."

Lebanon's moderate Al-Anwar reiterated this attitude, recognising that "no-one expects Obama to give up commitment to Israel's security and supremacy, or to become biased towards Arabs".

However, it was reasonable to expect Obama "to liberate US foreign policy from its continued abduction by Israeli heads of state". In the same vein, Egypt's Al-Ahram said that "if there is a real intention towards change, it is required that US policy becomes balanced towards a region in which it has enormous strategic interests".

The editorial in Qatar's Al-Rayah said that President Obama's inauguration speech "delivered many messages which turned over the leaf of his predecessor George Bush and opened the door to a new US policy". It conceded, however, that "nobody knows" how President Obama will handle the issues of the Middle East.


Several voices in the Israeli press called for a wait-and-see approach to the new president.

While acknowledging that events in Gaza and the likelihood that Israel would soon elect a more right-wing government might make relations with the US more strained, many commentators said a drastic change in US attitudes to Israel was unlikely.

The centrist, top-selling Yediot Aharanot said "nothing significant" was likely to happen in terms of US-Israeli relations until "the formation of the new Israeli government in March".

An editorial in the English-language Jerusalem Post advised that "Israelis would be wise not to panic at the first sign of turbulence in Jerusalem-Washington relations" because "we have every reason to suspect that Obama will support the Jewish state in its quest for defensible borders and genuine acceptance by its neighbours".

The left-of-centre broadsheet Ha'aretz said that "the inaugural address was no left-wing manifesto".


Privately-owned daily Rah-e Najat said the "evidence shows that Barack Obama's administration will continue the policies of George W Bush and cannot be expected to introduce real change. Like Bush, [Obama] supports militaristic policies in his statements".

Elsewhere, the Afghan press was predominantly focused on domestic news, particularly the recent opening of parliament.


North Korean media made almost no mention of the inauguration of Barack Obama. There was no mention of the event in the ruling party's Rodong Sunmun newspaper.

The only coverage that the event received was a brief, factual report in state-run North Korean news agency KCNA, which stated: "Barack Obama took office as the 44th president of the United States on 20 January. The inauguration ceremony was held at the Capitol building that day. He made an inaugural address there."

BBC Monitoring selects and translates news from radio, television, press, news agencies and the internet from 150 countries in more than 70 languages. It is based in Caversham, UK, and has several bureaux abroad.

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