Press Review Thursday 13 May 2010

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The headlines today would have all been about yesterday’s plane crash in Libya in which 103 people lost their lives. Would have been, because normally there are no newspapers on Ascension Day as it is a national holiday in the Netherlands.

In light of the terrible tragedy, in which 61 Dutch nationals are believed to have been killed, De Telegraaf and a number of regional papers have decided to publish extra tabloid editions, which are being distributed for free at various petrol stations throughout the country and available on the internet.

Hell of Tripoli The front page of De Telegraaf is filled with a photograph of the disaster site. Two men in long blue coats, wearing surgical face masks and rubber gloves, pick their way through the wreckage. One is holding a red plastic bin bag. The plane has completely disintegrated, in the background only the tail of the Afriqiyah Airways Airbus is still whole. A photo of the sole survivor thought to be a 10-year-old Dutch boy in a pink robe wearing an oxygen mask in hospital is shown at the bottom of the page.

Wednesday evening’s edition of NRC Handelsblad shows a close up of the same tail fin. Red, yellow and green nines on a dark background tower over two military personnel in blue uniforms assessing the disaster.

The Haarlems Dagblad prints a close-up of the boy’s face. His eyes are closed, his head is bandaged, a tube runs alongside his ear. The headline reads the Hell of Tripoli.

NRC Handelsblad writes that Afriqiyah Airways flight 8U771, an Airbus 330-200, was flying from Johannesburg to Tripoli when it crashed early in the morning near the airport in the Libyan capital. Many of the passengers would have flown on to destinations in Europe.

Miracle boy Although the identity of the sole survivor is not certain, the paper writes that he told hospital staff that his name is Ruben. He is also reported to have called out “Holland Holland” during his rescue. De Telegraaf prints a photo of his aunt and uncle, who have flown out to Libya on a government plane to be at his bedside. The ministry says it is better to take the risk of getting it wrong in the hope that the boy can see a familiar face at his bedside.

The Brabants Dagblad reports that he is in a critical condition in intensive care. He has broken bones in his lower body, bruising of the brain tissue and he is not able to move any part of his body yet. The paper names the boy who is believed to come from Tilburg in the southern province of Brabant. He had been on safari in South Africa with his mother, father and 11-year-old brother.

Cause of crash unknown De Telegraaf writes that eyewitnesses saw the twin engine airplane explode in the air and again when it hit the ground. It questions the speed at which the Libyan authorities ruled out a terrorist attack and says the Dutch Anti-terrorism Coordinator has no indications whether it was an attack or not so far. The paper even suggests that the Libyan authorities are not likely to be forthcoming with the truth.

In the paper, Prime Minister Jan Peter Balkenende says the government’s first concern is the relatives of the victims. The government has appealed to them not to take up an offer to fly out to Libya because they will be needed in the Netherlands to gather information to help identify the victims. A meeting is to be organised for the relatives, who are facing the terrible uncertainty about the fate of their loved ones.

World press photo hits you like a fist On its inside pages NRC Handelsblad prints a photo by one of the winners of the World Press Photo exhibition, which opened yesterday in Amsterdam. The picture is by American photographer Eugene Richards. The paper writes that the picture hits you like a fist in the face. It shows an elderly woman helping her grown-up son out of bed, her arms around his waist. A chunk of the man’s head is missing. He lost 40 percent of his brain in a grenade attack in Iraq. The paper describes him as a strong man with a head in the shape of a half moon.

The award for the World Press Photo of 2009, however, went to Italian photographer Pietro Masturzo. His picture shows an Iranian woman calling from the roof of her home in Tehran during last year’s anti-government protests following the elections.

Rabbit shouldn’t have got legal aid The Netherlands is not particularly known as a country of animal lovers, in spite of being the first country to have an Animal Rights Party. But now the Council for Legal Aid has ruled that it was wrong to grant legal aid to a woman who wanted to see her old bunny so badly that she went to court.

“Punkie’s case” as it has become known, is reported in Amsterdam’s evening paper Het Parool. The Council for Legal Aid is now trying to get the money back.

It all began with an aggressive rabbit, the aforesaid Punkie. A woman in the Dutch capital had found a new home for the bad bunny at a farm. But when she received a letter jokingly telling her Punkie had been put in its place and the fluff was everywhere, she got worried and demanded to be given the farm’s address.

The judge in the case was not only surprised that the case had been brought before him at all, he was also astonished that the woman had actually received legal aid. Apparently she lost the case. But the new owner did make one concession and sent a photo showing Punkie alive and kicking.


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