World

England riots: The global reaction

  • 10 August 2011
  • From the section World
Riot police infront of burning building in Tottenham, 2011
Image caption Stories and images from the riots have found a place in papers around the world

The riots in British cities have unsurprisingly dominated headlines in domestic papers. But there has also been extensive coverage overseas. So what does the rest of the world make of the unrest?

"Everyone is just very shocked," said Ravi Somaiya, a reporter with the New York Times.

Mr Somaiya told the BBC's Today programme that the riots had been a big story for the US, dominating the front pages of his paper for several days.

"I mean a couple of months ago Britain was Harry Potter and the Royal Wedding. Now it is phone-hacking and riots in the street.

"It's quite a turnaround," he said.

US papers have differed on their interpretations of the riots, but Mr Somaiya says many attribute it to social inequality.

"I think the word 'underclass' comes up quite a lot because it has a lot of resonance obviously with an American audience where there is similar income inequality," he said.

Too soft or too tough?

Elsewhere in the US, the LA Times describes how "community leaders, sociologists, police and lawmakers were left groping for a meaning for the worst social unrest to hit London in a generation."

Image caption The response of the police has been widely debated

The paper said the riots exposed a phenomenon it called "yobbery, the anti-social behavior of a generation believed to be so alienated from the norms of civilised society that pockets of some cities live in fear".

Some commentators, such as the New York Times' Robert Mackay, were baffled by the restraint shown by British police. "American readers might be surprised to learn that most members of the force charged with ending the rioting remain unarmed," he writes.

Others, such as the highly censored Iranian media, have drawn the opposite conclusion.

Iranian press say the UK has been too tough on the rioters, who it portrays as citizens protesting against poor living conditions and police mistreatment.

The Iranian government, usually at the receiving end of criticism for its treatment of demonstrators, was quick to condemn what it said was police brutality against innocent individuals.

Press TV cites Mohammad Karim Abedi, the vice-chairman of the parliamentary committee, as urging London "to order the police to stop treating protesters violently".

Other countries too have been showing what appears to be a touch of schadenfreude.

Libya has used the events as an excuse to call the British government illegitimate and demand it go - an echo of comments made by the UK about Col Muammar Gaddafi's regime.

"[David] Cameron and his government must leave after the popular uprising against them and the violent repression of peaceful demonstrations by police," Libya's Jana news agency quoted Deputy Foreign Minister Khaled Kaaim as saying.

'Deeper roots'

Beijing's Global Times, meanwhile, says the riots and US debt crisis show that western democracies are "at their wits' end".

An editorial in the English edition of the Global Times says that while the Chinese system has its own problems, the British riots show it is easy to underestimate the complexities of a western-style democratic system.

Image caption Germany's Die Welt says other European countries will have to confront such problems

"China is one of many countries long targeted by Western criticism. It is reproached by the West for its every frustration, making many Chinese people believe domestic problems are China's systematic fault while admiring Western powers.

"However, the troubles in the US and Britain, the Norway mass killing and the protests in Israel against high living costs show that the Chinese actually do not have enough understanding of the ups and downs of an industrialised society."

Closer to home, European media has been watching more anxiously, trying to establish whether the British riots were a product of the economic malaise affecting the continent - or a uniquely British phenomenon.

"The economic crisis could have been a factor in the riots but that is far from clear," writes Walter Oppenheimer in El Pais.

"Unlike what has been happening in recent months in Greece or in Spain, where the middle classes are the ones who have taken to the streets, here it has been the young people from poor neighbourhoods. Their problems don't stem from four years of crisis.

"Their malcontent has much deeper roots."

An editorial in Spain's La Vanguardia lists the reasons behind the violence as "poverty, marginalisation, racial conflict and a shroud of hopelessness" caused by the economic crisis and the government's cuts.

France's Liberation newspaper, meanwhile, ascribes the unrest to social divisions in a "Disunited Kingdom".

Ulf Poschardt of Germany's Die Welt blames dependence on the welfare state, saying other countries that have "lived beyond their means" will be forced to endure similar turmoil.

Mr Poschardt blasts looters as those who "have got used to getting money from the state and complaining when that is cut back".

"The riots in London are hooliganism by losers, who live in a society that has little sympathy for losers. Among the arsonists are people who no longer have any values."

"These kind of problems are going to be faced in the foreseeable future by many more Europeans. As all states have to some extent lived far beyond their means, they all, without exception, will have to cut back on their spending."

Cricket jitters

In Pakistan's Dawn newspaper, Caroline Jaine, a British writer, describes how she is "staggered" by Britain's reaction, arguing that it is hypocritical in light of Britain's condemnation of the crackdowns in the Arab world.

Image caption Indian media wondered whether the cricket would be cancelled

"The same people that shake their sorry heads when street protests across the Middle East are crushed by dictatorial regimes are calling for an army presence on the streets of Britain, and I have heard plenty say the rioters and looters should be shot.

"Even highly trained conflict transformation professionals who have cut their teeth on Afghanistan and Iraq are simply sighing - claiming that 'these people' are just bad-guys," she adds.

But Egyptian netizens were quick to draw a comparison between their protest movement, which toppled President Hosni Mubarak in February, and the recent scenes in Britain.

Mosa'ab Elshamy, an activist, writes on Twitter: "Egyptians and Tunisians took revenge for Khaled Said and [Mohammed] Bouazizi by peacefully toppling their murdering regimes, not stealing DVD players."

The Indian press has been largely dominated by the possible implications on the cricket match between India and England this week.

The Indian Express reported that the squad would continue its tour in Britain despite the unrest.

The Times of India, meanwhile, had another concern.

"Top Bollywood actors safe in London," the newspaper announced. "Some of our top Bollywood actors, including Shah Rukh Khan, Priyanka Chopra, Ranbir Kapoor, Shahid Kapur and Anushka Sharma, are safe in London," the paper assures fans.

Priyanka Chopra has even been happily shopping in Harrods, the newspaper cites a tweet as stating.

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