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Obama Inauguration: How The World's Press Covered The Big Event


The world has followed avidly the historic events in Washington, where Barack Hussein Obama was yesterday sworn in as the 44th president of the United States. Discussion of the inauguration and the challenges facing Obama dominated headlines in many countries. In some places, however, the media largely ignored the topic.

The Belarusian government has never expressed a particular affection for the United States or its presidents.

So it was an unprecedented move when Minsk sent a special TV crew to Washington to report as Barack Obama took his oath of office and became the first African-American president.

The state-funded television team offered surprisingly positive coverage of the historic event -- signaling a possible desire on the part of Minsk for warmer relations with the West.

Media outlets from other countries -- including Russia, Afghanistan, Armenia, and Kyrgyzstan -- offered extensive coverage of the inauguration ceremony as well.

Challenges Ahead

While the lavish Washington ceremonies on January 20 were still making headlines, many journalists across the post-Soviet region and Middle East had already turned their focus to the challenges facing Obama -- as well as their own countries' expectations regarding his new administration.

"Al-Sabah," a semi-official Baghdad daily, made note of Obama's plans to withdraw U.S. troops from Iraq within 16 months of taking office. Another Iraqi newspaper, "Al-Ittihad," welcomed America's first black president, moreover a man "of Muslim background" with an Arabic middle name.

In the South Caucasus countries of Armenia and Georgia, opposition newspapers used the Obama inauguration as an opportunity to criticize their own leaders.

Georgia's "Rezonansi" described President Mikheil Saakashvili as the "darling" of former U.S. President George W. Bush, and wondered what changes Obama would bring to the U.S.-Georgia relationship.

In Armenia, the "Lragir" opposition daily contrasted Obama's inauguration with that of the Armenian president, Serzh Sarkisian, in 2008. The daily noted that while Washington, despite significant security concerns, welcomed some 2 million people to watch the ceremonies, in Armenia the police dispersed crowds that came to watch Sarkisian's swearing-in.

Afghanistan's private television networks, including Afghan, Shamshad, Saba, Lmar and Noor, gave extensive live coverage to the events in Washington. Afghan commentators today expressed hopes Obama would bring peace and stability to Afghanistan.

'Continuation Of George Bush'

In Iran, however, not everyone was convinced that change was in the air. "Kayhan," a conservative newspaper, called Obama the "logical continuation of George Bush." Discussing the challenges facing Obama, the daily predicted the new U.S. president would use "bigger sticks and bigger carrots."

The daily wrote: "it appears that Obama has realized that Iran doesn't consider any carrot bigger than [uranium] enrichment itself." The possibility of any deal between Tehran and Washington, it concludes, is very low.

Not everyone was dismissive. The front page of Iran's moderate "Aftab Yazd" featured comments by Hassan Rohani, the country's former nuclear negotiator. He noted Obama's campaign promise to held direct talks with Iran, and expressed hope that "Obama can open a window for nuclear issue."

Obama's inauguration wasn't covered everywhere. In Uzbekistan, state-run television and newspapers largely ignored the news.

The lack of coverage does not necessarily represent disinterest on the part of ordinary Uzbeks, however. Many people in the country say they were well aware of the events in Washington -- thanks to the international news they are able to receive using satellite dishes.

RFE/RL language services and bureaus contributed to this report
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