Different strokes in the Arab media on the death of Osama Bin Laden

May 4, 2011

The death of Osama Bin Laden apparently failed to change a new tendency by Bahraini newspapers to highlight local news over international news, regardless of how earth-shattering the news is.

Only one paper, Al Wasat, gave prominence to Bin Laden’s death on its front page while the other dailies devoted front-page space to other news.

In neighbouring Qatar, the dailies were more generous with reports on his death, although they remained mostly neutral.

Only The Peninsula dedicated its front page to the news, splashing a huge picture of a much younger Bin Laden and giving its opinion on what might happen next.

Kuwait’s Arabic dailies had a field day, devoting lots of space on the front and inside pages to the terror kingpin and to the myths that accompanied his life and his death. The most common headline was “US decapitates Al Qaida”.

What’s in a name?

Al Watan had a mixed Arabic and English headline and a play on the name sounds of the US president and Al Qaida leader, “Obama catches Osama”.

London-based Al Hayat in its Gulf edition made Bin Laden’s death its lead story on the front page and highlighted that the United States finally had gotten its revenge and beheaded Al Qaida. The daily’s international edition devoted more space to the coverage of the news and used three pictures and large graphics on its front page.

The concept of US revenge was also present in the headline which, however, did not refer to Al Qaida and highlighted that the world was now without Osama Bin laden.

Al Arab, the Libyan London-based daily, on its front page, speculated on the name of Bin Laden’s successor and reported on the silence of the Gulf states on his death.

The daily, however, expressed amazement about the sea burial Bin Laden had been accorded.

Abdul Bari Atwan, the editor-in-chief of Al Quds Al Arabi, another London-based daily, and one of the very few journalists who ever met Bin Laden, recalled in his opinion piece his meeting with Al Qaida founded and described his character.

For Iraqi newspaper Al Zaman, Bin Laden’s death topped its news list, although the daily showed interest in the Swiss bank accounts of Hosni Mubarak, Zine Al Abidine Ben Ali and Colonel Muammar Gaddafi.

International reactions

“The Killer is killed” was the banner across London-based Saudi daily Asharq Al Awsat. Known for its impressive feature news stories and analyses, the daily confirmed its status through huge coverage of the man, his life and his death, as well as international reactions and to Wikileaks cables related to the case.

The green-bound daily devoted ten news pages to the Al Qaida founder, coupled with opinion pieces and business reports on the man who was born into a wealthy Saudi family but was stripped of his Saudi nationality.

The US claim that Bin Laden was thrown into the sea was also a significant topic for many of the dailies. Ennahar was of the very few Arab dailies to display a picture of Americans celebrating Bin Laden’s death.




About the author

Born August 3, 1960 in Monastir, Tunisia
Media career:
  • ABC News (Tunisia)
  • Bahrain Tribune
  • Gulf News
  • Bahrain Television News
Teaching career:
  • Monastir (Tunisia)
  • University of Bahrain
  • MA  Mass Communications, University of Leicester
  • BA  in English & US literature and studies, University of Tunis

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