Friday, January 06, 2012

On the One Hand, a Dictator Who Starved His People; on the Other, a Freedom Fighter Like Walesa — And Whom Does Le Monde Choose for Its Main Headline?

In the wake of reading the issue in which Le Monde announced the deaths of Vaclav Havel and Kim Jong-il, a Le Monde reader protested in a letter to the editor:
Le Monde of December 20: huge headline on the death of Kim Jong-il, along with his photo. Only a modest column a fifth of a page wide is allocated to the day's other passing, Vaclav Havel. On the one hand, a dictator who starved his people while enriching his clan by putting his country under an iron fist. On the other, a freedom fighter of the same mettle as a Mandela, a Walesa, a Lula. And whom does my newspaper choose for its main headline? The North Korean tyrant! Is Le Monde's mistake not obvious to everyone?!...

Fifty years from now, who will remember this obscure North Korean "son of"? By contrast, the name of Vaclav Havel will remain a universal reference for all those who still believe it possible for man to change the course of events when these become unbearable and contrary to dignity.

His is the photo that we would have liked to see on the front page, not that of a character who will end up in the ash heap of history, as will his Tunisian, Egyptian, Libyan, and Syrian comrades tomorrow!

Christian Colas,
Paris