Press Review Friday 14 May 2010
There can only be one big story in today's Dutch papers: the deaths of 103 people in the crash of Afriqiyah Airways flight 8U 771 at Tripoli Airport, 70 of them Dutch nationals. As De Telegraaf’s headline attests, the Netherlands has been plunged into “deep mourning” and there are “tears being shed throughout the country”.
Focusing on the scene of the crash, de Volkskrant’s headline observes "Everything is broken, the memories lie in the sand" above a photograph of a Libyan policeman stooping to pick up a cuddly toy amid a scene of total devastation. "Nothing of the plane has been left whole," insists the paper. "Absolutely nothing. It's been smashed into a hundred thousand pieces."
Sole survivor: "the miracle of Ruben" The nine-year-old boy who miraculously survived the crash now has a name: Ruben van Assouw. A reporter from De Telegraaf has spoken to the young survivor in what it describes as "a brief and heartbreaking telephone conversation from his hospital bed". While the boy was able to recall details of his holiday in Africa, he appeared not to know that he had been in a plane crash: "I'm in a hospital. I don't know how I got here. I'm okay but my legs hurt really bad ... I really want to go home." Ruben has not yet been told that his parents and his 11-year-old brother died in the disaster. His aunt and uncle have flown to Libya to be by his side.
Scoops like this have also sparked controversy. Trouw quotes Deputy Interior Minister Ank Bijleveld who has appealed to the press to respect the privacy of the victims: "Ruben's grandfather and grandmother told me they were upset by the images of their grandson taken in the operating theatre before he had even regained consciousness." Interior Minister Maxime Verhagen puts the level of media access allowed by the Libyan authorities in a different perspective: "These people just want to show the world that they are doing everything possible to help Ruben."
Searching for the answers AD expresses serious doubts about whether the truth behind the cause of the disaster will ever emerge in a country like Libya where “all information is the property of the state” and “leader Muammar Gaddafi is the sun, with 6.5 million Libyans and all they hold dear revolving around him”. De Telegraaf criticises Libya’s speedy insistence that the crash was not caused by a terrorist attack as “overly hasty” and asserts that this possibility still cannot be ruled out. The paper’s editorial brands Gadaffi as “a Rasputin who will stop at nothing to keep his own doorstep clean … suspicion of this man, his apparatchiks and the country of Libya is entirely justified.”
AD proposes “poor visibility as a possible cause” of the crash. It talks to aviation spokesman Benno Baksteen who argues that “the sun’s low position in the sky could have played a part, especially if conditions were hazy”. Another issue is that the runway where the plane was due to land was not fitted out with the latest equipment and that the presence of cranes due to construction work may have interfered with the signals emitted by navigation beacons.
While the aircraft’s flight recorders have been recovered, it is expected to take a week or two for the data to be properly analysed. But developments in the meantime give cause for concern. Experts consulted by AD note that “the moving of wreckage and the presence of hundreds of people at the crash site is not a good sign”.
Enschede: a national disaster ten years on As the Netherlands tries to come to terms with this latest disaster, the town of Enschede has been remembering the 23 people who died tenyears ago when a fireworks factory exploded and destroyed the district of Roombeek. Under the headline “Enschede mourns in silence”, Trouw reports on “the sober ceremony at the scene of the disaster, a park on the site where the S.E. Fireworks factory once stood”.
In his speech, the town’s mayor expressed his empathy with the victims of the Tripoli air disaster and their families: “We know what kind of impact a disaster has on a person’s life. You can no longer take anything for granted. At one stroke, you can literally lose everything.”
De Telegraaf notes that the “commemoration took place in the context of new facts” which have led to the reopening of the investigation into the causes of the fireworks disaster. As the mayor said: “Everyone hopes that the remaining mysteries will be solved.” That too will surely ring true for the families of those who died in Tripoli as, according to De Telegraaf, there were “hardly any answers” for them at a meeting held yesterday, which was “full of sorrow and disbelief”.
Does extra-marital romp mean curtains for minister? Dutch politics doesn’t usually offer very rich pickings for gossip columnists, which may explain why the papers seem to be relishing the damage done to the Christian Democrats’ Deputy Defence Minister Jack de Vries by revelations of an extra-marital fling with his secretary. De Volkskrant reports the news has made him “an all too easy target” and that the responses within his party – with its emphasis on family values – “range from deep despair to laconic shoulder shrugging”. The paper is quick to point out the irony of “the man who was seen as the best campaign strategist in Dutch politics inflicting so much damage on his party at such a crucial moment”. That crucial moment being less than a month before a general election with the Christian Democrats trailing in the polls.
So what’s to become of him? De Volkskrant reckons “a role in the shadows awaits”. AD speaks to the military unions who blame Mr De Vries for leaving himself open to blackmail and for not abiding by Defence Ministry regulations on relationships between managers and employees. As one spokesman puts it: “He’s saddled himself with an enormous problem and he has to clean up his own mess.” While he is unlikely to be sacked for his shenanigans, Trouw observes that “The Hague expects Mr De Vries to resign”, especially now the unions are rejecting him as a negotiating partner since there’s “a major dent in his credibility”. Perhaps the lack of sympathy for his predicament is best summed up by the paper’s cartoonist, which depicts him as a political mudslinger getting a taste of his own medicine … a mud pie full in the face.
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