World media in thrall as Mandela passes away

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Posted  Friday, December 6  2013 at  11:07

Very few people become global icons whose passing can dominate all of the world's front pages, trigger non-stop TV coverage and invite worshipful plaudits from across the media landscape. Nelson Mandela was one.

The 95-year-old's death also generated an outpouring of emotion across Twitter and other social media, demonstrating a fitting sense of global unity in praise for the anti-apartheid hero whose struggle for equality in South Africa inspired billions.

In his home country, most newspapers published their headlines in black, as a sign of mourning for "Madiba".

"The World Weeps," said the national daily The Star.

Around the globe, news channels offered rolling coverage while many newspapers and weekly magazines deployed the kind of souvenir front pages that would usually greet the death of a monarch or national hero.

The cover of The New Yorker featured the image of a young Mandela raising his fist with typical defiance and dignity, while Time magazine chose a more recent photo with the caption: "Protester. Prisoner. Peacemaker."

"The alchemy of character and events made of Mandela a peculiarly unspotted figure," wrote Britain's The Guardian in an editorial.

"Few could deny a certain sweetness in his personality, and a largeness of mind that had room for all."

Mandela spent 27 years in jail for his battle against white-supremacist rule, before being elected in South Africa's first all-race elections in 1994 and reconciling with his former oppressors.

His death had long been expected, coming after a spate of hospitalisations with lung infections and three months of intensive care at home. But the announcement sent a shockwave around the world nonetheless.

Britain's Daily Mail described Mandela as a "colossus" and "a giant who taught the world the meaning of forgiveness", joining other British newspapers for whom news of Mandela's death broke just in time for front-page redesigns.

The online edition of Germany's Der Spiegel hailed Mandela as "one of the greatest fighters against oppression" while Berlin daily Taggespiegel carried "Death of a legend" as its headline.

In France, sports newspaper L'Equipe noted Mandela's influence and example on athletes around the world, given how he used sport as a force for national reconciliation at the 1995 Rugby World Cup.

"A Nation's Healer is Dead," said the Washington Post, while The Wall Street Journal tweeted a preview of its Friday front page in the United States, dominated by news of Mandela's death.

The Financial Times noted of the first democratically elected leader of South Africa: "Arguably a saint, (Mandela) was definitely a politician who understood power."

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