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Mandela’s death eclipses global news

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REUTERS

People walk past a news ticker in Times Square that announces the death of South Africa's former president, Nelson Mandela, in New York. Picture: Carlo Allegri

Hong Kong - Very few people become global icons whose passing can dominate all of the world's front pages, trigger non-stop TV coverage and invite worshipful plaudits from across the media landscape. Nelson Mandela was one.

The 95-year-old's death also generated an outpouring of emotion across Twitter and other social media, demonstrating a fitting sense of global unity in praise for the anti-apartheid hero whose struggle for equality in South Africa inspired billions.

Around the globe, news channels offered rolling coverage while many newspapers and weekly magazines deployed the kind of souvenir front pages that would usually greet the death of a monarch or national hero.

The cover of The New Yorker featured the image of a young Mandela raising his fist with typical defiance and dignity, while Time magazine chose a more recent photo with the caption: “Protester. Prisoner. Peacemaker.”

“The alchemy of character and events made of Mandela a peculiarly unspotted figure,” wrote Britain's The Guardian in an editorial.

“Few could deny a certain sweetness in his personality, and a largeness of mind that had room for all.”

Mandela spent 27 years in jail for his battle against white-supremacist rule, before being elected in South Africa's first all-race elections in 1994 and reconciling with his former oppressors.

His death had long been expected, coming after a spate of hospitalisations with lung infections and three months of intensive care at home. But the announcement sent a shockwave around the world nonetheless.

Britain's Daily Mail described Mandela as a “colossus” and “a giant who taught the world the meaning of forgiveness”, joining other British newspapers for whom news of Mandela's death broke just in time for front-page redesigns.

The online edition of Germany's Der Spiegel hailed Mandela as “one of the greatest fighters against oppression” while Berlin daily Taggespiegel carried “Death of a legend” as its headline.

In France, sports newspaper L'Equipe noted Mandela's influence and example on athletes around the world, given how he used sport as a force for national reconciliation at the 1995 Rugby World Cup.

“A Nation's Healer is Dead,” said the Washington Post, while The Wall Street Journal tweeted a preview of its Friday front page in the United States, dominated by news of Mandela's death.

The Financial Times noted of the first democratically elected leader of South Africa: “Arguably a saint, (Mandela) was definitely a politician who understood power.”

For many, Mandela's death was very much a social media event with Twitter and Facebook ablaze with shared stories, reflections and comments that took the story into a more personal domain.

“I learned of the news on Twitter and shared it on Facebook. It's a normal routine for people in this day and age,” said Yuen Chan, lecturer at the School of Journalism and Communication at The Chinese University of Hong Kong.

News of Mandela's death broke too late for many of Asia's newspapers to carry it in their print editions, but Hong Kong's South China Morning Post echoed others in giving the news full coverage on its website.

When it comes to major news events of this magnitude “there is something about having that front page in your hand, holding something physical”, Chan said.

“But I'm not sure if that really applies to young people, whether they have that attachment to it.”

Regardless of the format, Mandela's legacy struck a universal chord, she said, prompting a global media response of rare scale.

The Onion, a US purveyor of mock news, laced its regular shots of satire with regret at the South African hero's passing.

“Nelson Mandela Becomes First Politician To Be Missed,” it headlined. - Sapa-AFP


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