Asian media gave the Paris terror attacks prominence, but offered little in the way of editorials or commentary. Social media was not so slow.
Where they could, newspapers around Asia cleared their front pages to give priority to coverage of the Friday evening attacks in the French capital as the story developed. But many were caught out by the timing of the events which took place in the small hours of Saturday morning in Asia.
That meant that some print editions only carried the beginnings of the breaking story and there was no time to weigh in with editorials or other think pieces. Many papers had to leave it to their websites to carry more extensive and up to date coverage.
Coverage on Saturday morning was largely factual – infographics and timelines appeared on many sites – as well as simple reaction stories: “No Malaysians hurt in Paris,” “All 1,299 Chinese tourists in 40 groups reported safe.”
Japanese TV broadcasters, including state-owned NHK, portrayed something of an island mentality. While major internationals channels including BBC World and CNN devoted most of their airtime to covering the attacks, Japanese broadcasters maintained largely unchanged schedules on Saturday. They were duly criticized.
Largely unclear from early media reports on Saturday were the political and social reactions in Malaysia, Indonesia and Pakistan, three Asian countries with large, predominantly Muslim populations.
And Asian media had plenty of significant local stories battling for space and coverage. These included a tsunami in Japan, a flooding and landslides in China, Aung San Suu Kyi’s landslide election result in Myanmar, and a huge anti-government street protest in South Korea.
Social media was far quicker to deliver news updates and snappy commentary. Both China’s President and Premier used state media and domestic social media to issue condemnations (Xi Jinping: “… personally condemn in the strongest terms the barbaric acts;” Li Keqiang: “”strong outrage and condemnation”,) which the Xinhua news agency then carried to international readers via Twitter, a medium which is banned within China.
Many Indian social media commentators were quick to make parallels with the Mumbai terror raids of 2008, when multiple targets through the city were simultaneously attacked.
By Saturday evening in Asia — early morning in Paris – Asian media were catching up, as were the diplomatic activities. In Hong Kong, which is home to an 18,000 strong French expatriate population, a candlelight vigil was held with the Consul General Eric Berti in attendance. Berti said that all consular events next week, including a French Film Festival, will begin with a minute silence.
Hong Kong’s government issued an “amber travel advisory” for France. The Philippines said that it would tighten security ahead of next week’s Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation summit in Manila which U.S. President Obama is scheduled to attend.
And Google announced that it had made calls to France free of charge via Google Hangouts.