Africa

Mubarak trial contentious for Mid-east media

Mubarak appeared on a stretcher inside the defendants' cage
Image caption Mubarak appeared on a stretcher inside the defendants' cage

While Egyptians were transfixed by live coverage of the trial of ousted President Hosni Mubarak, media coverage elsewhere in the region suggested some governments were less than happy to broadcast images of a former Middle Eastern ruler in court.

Like Egyptian TV stations, the region's main satellite news channels devoted wall-to-wall coverage to the trial's first day on Wednesday.

But the state-controlled media in several Middle Eastern countries largely ignored the event.

There was no mention whatsoever of the Mubarak trial on the main news channels in Syria, Bahrain and Yemen, which have all seen Arab Spring-inspired protests demanding democratic reform.

Pan-Arab TV

Mr Mubarak's appearance on a stretcher inside the defendants' cage received live blanket coverage on Qatari-owned Al-Jazeera, Saudi-backed Al-Arabiya and Iranian Al-Alam, all of which also interviewed correspondents, analysts and members of the public.

Al-Alam carried a split screen interview with Egyptian opposition activist Wissam Ata, who said the "twin goals" of the trial were to let "85 million Egyptians see Mubarak the suspect in court" and to assess whether the trial was serious or "just window-dressing to please the Egyptian people".

Mr Ata hoped the trial would "melt the ice" between activists and the ruling army.

One Egyptian political commentator told Al-Arabiya that the case was "very complex" but the trial would calm the public mood. He said the court conduct had been orderly when compared to previous high-profile trials.

The channel's Cairo correspondent expressed concerns about possible clashes between pro- and anti-Mubarak protesters.

She added that Mr Mubarak's sons may have been blocking the camera's view of their father in order to avoid the public being able to see him cry, which she said would be an "iconic image to remain in the psyche of the Egyptian people".

Opposition activist Abd-al-Halim Qandil told Al-Jazeera that Mr Mubarak's robust demeanour in court "banished all excuses about delaying the trial because of his health".

He added that the authorities had brought the former president to trial because of "pressure from the street", and that his trial would enhance the reputation of both the ruling Army Council and the judiciary.

Political analyst Ammar Ali Hassan made the same point to Al-Arabiya TV, adding that the trial would help to "dispel doubts about the army that have caused anger over the past few weeks".

A presenter in Al-Alam's Beirut studio, Husayn Izz al-Din, said the trial was being watched worldwide and marked the end of the "theory of the ruler's immunity".

He interviewed Egyptian political activists from the secular 6 April Movement and the Muslim Brotherhood. They all saw the trial as a sign of that Egypt's ruling military had heeded public concerns.

Al-Alam also interviewed members of the public in Jordan, Lebanon and Iraq, who all welcomed the "historic" trial apart from one Jordanian man who thought Mr Mubarak was too old to stand trial.

Al-Jazeera aired a video report of public reaction from Gaza, which favoured the trial. Al-Jazeera also broadcast comments by former Israeli defence minister Benjamin Ben-Eliezer, who said it was a "sad day" and described Mr Mubarak as a friend and patriot.

Egypt

The official Channel One and Nile News hardly covered any other news on Wednesday, and devoted ample time to analysis and public opinion.

The Nile News presenter dubbed it a "new morning" for Egypt, and covered pauses in trial proceedings with comment from a legal expert, journalists and political activists. They praised the army's decision to go ahead with the trial and denounced Mr Mubarak.

Channel One's coverage was similar. Imad Jad of Egypt's Al-Ahram Centre for Strategic Studies told the breakfast show that Mr Mubarak's appearance in the dock was a "clear message that if the people want something according to the law, they can make it happen".

Media pundit Yasir Abd-al-Said this was the day that "sacredness of the ruler was destroyed".

Iran

The trial dominated Iran's official domestic TV channels. The IRINN rolling news channel relayed Egyptian TV's live footage with a Farsi voiceover.

IRINN's Cairo correspondent said the trial showed the Egyptian public wanted Mr Mubarak brought to justice, calling it a "day of festivity not just for Egyptians, but also for the Arab and Islamic world".

Iran's Channel One did not carry live broadcasts of the trial but did mention it in its scheduled news bulletins, describing Mr Mubarak as an "Egyptian pharaoh in a cage", and dwelt on his alliances with the United States and Israel.

Live coverage elsewhere

Al-Ikhbariyah, an official Saudi TV news channel, and Lebanese Hezbollah's Al-Manar TV showed the opening of the trial live.

Lebanon's Future News TV, which is affiliated with the opposition anti-Syrian 14 March Forces, gave the trial full live coverage, as did the private London-based Al-Sharqiyah news channel.

Qatar-based pro-rebel Libya TV begins its broadcasts later in the day, and kicked off with recorded coverage of the trial. The presenter called it a "lesson by the people to their unjust rulers".

The channels' resident political analyst Faraj Bu Ashi called the trial a "beautiful sight". "This is the first time a tyrant has been put in a cage by the regular people who rebelled against him".

No live coverage

Official TV channels in Algeria, Iraq, Libya, Jordan, Lebanon, Mauritania, Morocco, Sudan, Syria, Tunisia, Bahrain and Yemen did not show the trial live, nor did either the Palestinian Authority's satellite TV channel or Al-Aqsa TV of the Gaza-based Palestinian faction Hamas.

Jordan, Morocco, Syria, Tunisia, Bahrain and Yemen have been affected by "Arab Spring"-style uprisings and protests demanding democratic reform.

Channels that did report the trial in their news bulletins ranged from extensive footage with comment to brief accounts.

Iraq's official Al-Iraqiyah channel led its news bulletins with factual reports on the trial, and interviewed a political analyst on the proceedings.

Tunisian TV had a detailed video report with footage of the trial and clashes between anti- and pro-Mubarak protesters. It reported mixed sentiment on the streets, and the TV reporter dubbed the trial as a "precedent".

Algerian TV's evening news bulletin, in contrast, led with the Mubarak story in a factual report with no trial footage. Moroccan TV ran the story towards the end of the bulletin with a factual report over Egyptian Nile TV's trial footage.

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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