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Press review: Tuesday 13 May 2014
Nigeria's stolen schoolgirls
A week ago hardly anyone wanted to know. Today the girls abducted from their Nigerian school are everywhere.
A video released by the Boko Haram group that took the teenagers at gunpoint last month shows 136 girls in full hijab reciting the Koran. Their kidnapper says they have been truly liberated because they have converted to Islam.
The film will have brought relief to parents who recognised their daughters and could see that they were still alive and relatively safe. But more than a hundred were not shown and they could be anywhere. Indeed, the video may have revealed further horrors of which we weren't aware. Parents and friends have identified 54 of the girls from the footage, and there are suspicions tonight that some or all of the other 82 may have been kidnapped on other occasions.
We know that it has become a proper story because the BBC has sent John Simpson to the scene - or maybe he informed them that he was going - to offer his wisdom on what a dangerous place that corner of Nigeria is. We'd kind of worked that out what with the kidnappings, the burnt-out cars all along the road and the massacre of 300 people last weekend.
But at least he is on the spot. Look at the British newspaper reports and there's barely a dateline between them. The Telegraph has Colin Freeman in Abuja, the capital some 500 miles away, but all the other bylines are noticeably naked. Foreign editors aren't helped by disruption of flights to Maiduguri, the nearest airport to the school, but they've now had four weeks to get someone - or something - in place.
But why go to the expense? There's Michelle Obama looking stonyfaced with a hashtag poster in her hand in the White House. Here's David Cameron on Andrew Marr sharing his hashtag poster with Christiane Anampour. Heaven help us.
And now the kidnappers have seen that the world has woken up, they are furnishing us with propaganda videos that we cling to as a sign of hope, a sign even that they are ready to negotiate. Well, 200 teenage girls are a lot for any group of men to handle - and they have been with them for a full month.
Of today's papers, the Independent shows the greatest commitment, with the whole of the front given over to the video and a spread inside that included a compassionate analysis of the film from Yasmin Alibhai-Brown. Coverage elsewhere was pretty straight - taking as read the "attitude" that you'd expect from the Mail and Sun - although the Guardian seemed priggish in semi-pixillating the girls' faces on its front-page picture.
That was a strange decision. Why go for the shot with the girl right in front of the camera if you were going to obliterate her face? Why not stick with the distant shot from the start of the video? And why pixillate anyway? The girl and her family are not going to suffer from seeing her face on a newspaper that is published 3,000 miles away and sells fewer than 200,000 copies a day.
The most noticeable change of heart, however, came on Sunday. The Telegraph continued to show restraint with a downpage double on Mrs Obama, but the Observer, left, and the Sunday Times, above right, went from zero news coverage last week to push-the-boat-out spreads.
And now America is flying surveillance planes over the Nigerian forests, who knows how much interest we will finally start to take?