Obama humbled by prize

October 10, 2009 12:00 am

, HONG KONG, Oct 10 – The world’s media was divided Saturday after the shock award of the Nobel Peace Prize to President Barack Obama, with some calling it a victory for ideals and others condemning it as deeply politicised.

The prize-giving committee in Oslo named Obama the winner of the prestigious prize on Friday, hailing his "extraordinary" efforts in international diplomacy and hastening nuclear disarmament.

But the announcement proved as controversial as it was surprising.

The Washington Post’s Dan Balz said there was amazement all around that the award had gone to "a president still in his first year in office with no major accomplishments internationally".

"The breadth of reaction, from exuberant gratification in some quarters to scorn and dismissal in others, underscored the political divisions over the direction of Obama’s policies and the sharply polarised impressions of his leadership — to say nothing of how politicised the prize itself has become," wrote Balz.

The New York Times called it a "mixed blessing" for Obama that highlighted "the gap between the ambitious promise of his words and his accomplishments".

It said the award further demonstrated that Obama was still celebrated as the "anti-Bush" while in fact he had not shifted as much as he once implied he would from the previous administration’s national security policies.

And the conservative Wall Street Journal said its reaction to the news was one of "bemusement".

London’s Daily Telegraph said it was "one of the biggest shocks Nobel judges have ever sprung" and would also be seen as one of the most political, with nominations closing just 12 days after Obama took office.

The announcement made headlines in nearly all India’s newspapers. The Tribune declared "Obama is Nobel peacemaker", while the Times of India hailed it as a "Lifetime award for debutant Obama".

Meanwhile the Asian Age in India wrote an editorial headlined: "A prize for giving hope to the world."

It said: "Mr Obama has moved forward, slowly, in all crucial areas: ending strife between the West and Islam, peace in West Asia, creation of a nuclear-arms free world and reversing climate change."

In China the unofficial Beijing News called it "an award of encouragement".

The paper said the Nobel jury’s decision was more "symbolic" than anything else, and that it was "very clear that Obama’s ‘feats’ are still purely verbal and it will be very difficult to implement them".

"It’s so early for Obama to win the Nobel Prize," it said, speculating that the honour might put "great pressure" on him to deliver.

And Taiwan’s United Daily News labelled it a victory for populism and "empty language", adding that it is "perhaps the biggest controversy since the Nobel Prize was established in 1901".

Japanese media said the award would increase global expectations of the Obama administration, with the mass-circulation Yomiuri Shimbun saying it was "an important task for him to achieve fruitful results from now on".

The Asahi Shimbun said: "Tough issues are mounting. It is still unknown if (he) can show achievement…. Complicated conflicts of interest in the international community would not be resolved only with his winning of the Nobel peace prize."

But parts of the Muslim world welcomed the award. The Jakarta Globe in Indonesia, the world’s most populous Muslin nation, called the US leader an "extraordinary person".

"He leads by projecting values and attitudes that are shared by decent people in every corner of the world," it said.

"We hope the Nobel Peace Prize will encourage him to continue to work for peace, no matter how difficult the road ahead."

And the Daily Star in Bangladesh described the award as "a testament to the sheer sense of excitement and idealism (Obama) had brought to politics".

It added: "The man who has promised change deserves our congratulations. We give them to him freely," it said, adding the victory was "richly deserved".

The Sydney Morning Herald described the move as a "shock choice".


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