The Saudis hoped to see this summit signal the great return of Crown Prince Mohamed bin Salman on the international stage. Health crisis obliges, they had to be satisfied with an event by videoconference. But the spectacular festivities were maintained, to glorify the monarchy at least in the eyes of the local public.
It’s out of the ordinary even by media standards of authoritarian regimes in the Middle East. Rarely has a press deployed such a large number of articles, editorials and bombastic headlines, with newspapers devoting at least two-thirds of their pages to just one subject: the G20, organized virtually by Saudi Arabia. Better, all seem to have been designed according to the same mold.
The layouts as well as the titles are almost the same. “The Riyadh summit will restore serenity and hope to the peoples of the world ”, title the great daily newspaper of the capital, Al-Riyadh. According to the daily life of Mecca, Makka, the “Instills hope in the peoples of the Earth”. Slight variation in Al-Watan, with a “Return of hope for the peoples of the world”. Al-Jazirah title you need “Reassure our peoples and give them hope”. And so on.
Almost all of today’s editorials are devoted to the same subject. All stress how successful the summit is for the “Wise leaders” from the country. Thus in a particularly lyrical editorial in Al-Jazirah, where we can read:
Who could have imagined a few decades ago that a G20 may stand in this country, which was still only a desert and inhospitable country […] in which people suffered from hunger and lived through dramas of tribal blood feuds, due to the absence of a regime and laws. […] This lasted until our inspired government united the country […], demonstrating its political gifts and economic capacities, to ensure growth and to prepare the country for XXIth century. ”
“Today, the Crown Prince in turn takes advantage of the G20 to tackle subjects that go beyond just economic questions ”, continues the newspaper.
An air parade in the sky of Riyadh
Specimen is not left out: “The whole world is now looking to Riyadh”, he assures. In the hope of a “roadmap” for a “Exemplary world”, outbid Al-Riyadh.
In reality, the Saudi monarchy relied on the G20 to rehabilitate Crown Prince Mohamed ben Salman (MBS) on the international scene and to erase the memory of the assassination of the Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi at the Saudi consulate in Istanbul in October 2018.
But the hope of a nice group photo, with MBS in the midst of the great of this world, has been showered by the coronavirus crisis. Instead of seeing the leaders of the twenty largest economic powers parade, Riyadh had to settle for a summit by video conference.
Never mind, a virtual group photo was projected on the walls of a palace in Deriya, the cradle of the royal family, transformed in recent years into a sort of ecomuseum to the glory of both the Al -Saoud and a mythical past of the country. Also in Deriya, a “Cultural event” was organized, face-to-face, but with an audience reduced to ambassadors instead of the expected heads of state. There was even an air parade in the sky over Riyadh. And for the youngest, the publication of a book for “The leaders of tomorrow”, with children’s drawings that illustrate a better world to come.