The eyes of the national press have this week been focused on the Tunisian capital of Tunis. With the now former president now in Saudi Arabia and the mass protest over for now, the papers this weekend had the chance to reflect on how it all started and what the future holds for Tunisia and indeed the rest of the region.
There is a rather unfamiliar consensus over the root cause of anger targeted at President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali. Many papers report on the lavish lifestyle enjoyed by the president and his family, especially his wife the hatred of whom the Daily Mail reported was to be “likened to hated Queen Marie Antoinette, who was guillotined in the French Revolution.”
Unemployment and corruption are the often stated causes of the protest; several papers highlight the role of Wikileaks. The Daily Mail reported that “leaked diplomatic cables from the U.S. ambassador in Tunis, describing the opulent lifestyle of President Ben Ali’s family and widespread corruption, fired up the nation’s youth and provoked the riots.” The Telegraph made an interesting observation that despite strong government censoring “the government could not prevent Tunisians getting access on the internet to last year’s Wikileaks reports”. The Sun went as far as claiming this uprising to be the “first Wikileaks revolution” and in doing so suggested that Assange’s website may be the cause of similar events in the future.
The rest of The Sun’s coverage did of course focus mainly on the impact on the British: “The violence spilling on to the streets of Tunisia’s capital could spell disaster for UK tour operators banking on a bumper year in the country.”
The newspapers did have some predications for the future. The Guardian optimistically announced that “for ordinary Tunisians, there was hope amid the uncertainty and apprehension.” and the Daily Mail followed suit but rather unsurprisingly it did feel the need to be a little edgy when continuing to say “but it could be the unleashing of darker forces”. The media then made a range of loose predications. It was only The Independent that made a sensible observation when it wrote “it remains unclear who will emerge as the main candidates to lead any future Tunisian government.”
The papers have suggested that the Tunisia uprising has sent a clear message to other leaders in the region. The Independent declared “Ben Ali’s demise has alarmed other Arab governments.” The Mail in a slightly sensationalist manner proclaimed “A clutch of ageing despots in countries such as Egypt, Libya, Jordan and Algeria will be wondering nervously if they can prevent a rising tide of anger from turning into a wave of revolutions”.