Around 40 world leaders joined more than one million people in a march to honour the victims of the Paris shootings on Sunday.
But while the image of Francois Hollande, David Cameron, Angela Merkel and others linking arms was hailed in a New York Times editorial as showing “unity in outrage”, the display has not been without its own controversies.
Never mind those who did attend – the US President Barack Obama “let the world down” by failing to make the journey to France, according to the front page of the New York Daily News.
Now, a different perspective on the leader’s portion of the march has emerged in the form of a wide shot displayed on French TV news reports.
It shows that the front line of leaders was followed by just over a dozen rows other dignitaries and officials – after which there was a large security presence maintaining a significant gap with the throngs of other marchers.
The measure was presumably taken for security reasons – but political commentators have suggested that it raises doubts as to whether the leaders were really part of the march at all.
The FT’s Middle East correspondent Borzou Daragahi commented: “Seems world leaders didn’t “lead” Charlie Hebdo marchers in Paris but conducted photo op on empty, guarded street.”
Ian Bremmer, a US political scientist and founder of the Eurasia Group, said: “All those world leaders: Not exactly ‘at’ the Paris rallies.” Another US commentator, Gerry Hassan, called the leaders’ contribution “pseudo-solidarity”.
Yesterday it was observed that nine of the countries represented by leaders and dignitaries in the march for press freedom are themselves in the bottom third of the World Press Freedom Index, compiled by Reporters Without Borders.
But amid all the criticism, student Axel Fougner effectively represented the views of many on social media by writing today: “Hypocritical world leaders showing up in Paris does not in any way reduce the sincerity of the millions who marched for #jesuischarlie.”
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