August 12, 2008

Today's Front Pages Analysis

Russian invasion of Georgia continues to dominate coverage

Russia’s invasion of the democratically inclined former Soviet republic, now the independent country of Georgia, continues to dominate the news. This is not the first time Russia has used force to end democratization. Indeed, 40 years ago this month, on August 20, 1968, tanks of the Soviet Union and some of its Warsaw Pact allies crushed Czechoslovakia’s 200-day effort to democratize communism, to offer “socialism with a human face.” The Prague Spring was over.

Although early morning news reports today state that Russia is halting military action, it isn’t clear whether Russian troops will withdraw. After all, those troops have been told to “destroy” any “hotbeds of resistance or any aggressive actions.” Those reports didn’t make the morning newspapers, and we thought we would focus on European coverage.

Der Standard in Vienna, Austria, leads with “Open controversy between USA and Russia” about the fighting while featuring a photo of the Georgian president being protected when a Russian military helicopter appeared over the capital — a photo that several newspapers used. De Morgen in Brussels, Belgium, tops Page One with a photo of Russian soldiers in Georgia, and the European edition of The Wall Street Journal, published in Brussels, leads with a three-column headline reporting “As Russia pushes deeper, Georgia appeals for help.”

Dnevnik Daily in Sofia, Bulgaria, has a large war photo at the bottom of the page, while Lidove Noviny in Prague, Czech Republic, has its war story and the photo of the Georgian president being protected. Three other Prague dailies — Mlada Fronta Dnes, Denik and Hospodarske Noviny — also give Page One play to the fighting.

Aripaev in Tallinn, Estonia, has a big Page One picture of the Russian leaders to top their coverage, and the situation gets major play in La Tribune in Paris. Der Tagesspiegel in Berlin reports on “Russian troops near Georgia’s capital," To Vima in Athens has an army action shot anchoring the front page, La Stampa in Torino, Italy, banners “The Russians smash in,” while AD in Rotterdam, Netherlands, devotes most of the front page to war coverage, with photo and story.

In Poland, Dziennik Polski in Krakow and Dziennik Lodzi in Lodz play up the fighting. Jurnal Aradean in Arad, Romania, has a protest photo with someone carrying a poster reading, in English, “Stop the war in Georgia,” which seems appropriate since Romania did not participate in the Czechoslovak invasion mentioned earlier. Moskovskaya Pravda in Moscow plays up the war, but we can’t read Cyrillic, which is probably just as well. Danas in Belgrade, Serbia, leads with the war and uses the Georgian president photo.

Finally, The Guardian in London banners “Russians march into Georgia,” which sounds like a take-off of the U.S. Civil War song “Marching through Georgia,” the state, not the country.

Gene Mater is a Freedom Forum media consultant.

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