Western media has lately been under fire for their ‘biased and racist’ coverage of the Ukraine war drawing parallels with conflicts in other parts of the world.
While condemnation of war has been unanimous, a number of media organisations in the past week have ascribed more importance to some victims of war over others.
On February 26, during a CBS News segment, correspondent Charlie D’Agata commented: “But this isn’t a place, with all due respect, like Iraq or Afghanistan, that has seen conflict raging for decades. This is a relatively civilised, relatively European — I have to choose those words carefully, too — city, one where you wouldn’t expect that, or hope that it’s going to happen.”
Similarly, Daniel Hannan, of The Telegraph wrote: “They seem so like us. That is what makes it so shocking. Waris no longer something visited upon impoverished and remote populations. It can happen to anyone.”
Al Jazeera English anchor Peter Dobbie went on to say: “What’s compelling is, just looking at them, the way they are dressed, these are prosperous…I’m loath to use the expression… middle class people.
“These are not obviously refugees looking to get away from areas in the Middle East that are still in a big state of war. These are not people trying to get away from areas in North Africa. They look like any European family that you would live next door to.”
“We’re not talking here about Syrians fleeing the bombing of the Syrian regime backed by Putin, we’re talking about Europeans leaving in cars that look like ours to save their lives.” Philippe Corbé, BFM TV, reported.
Taking strong exception to it, Arab and Middle Eastern Journalists Association (AMEJA) called on all news organisations to be mindful of implicit and explicit bias in their coverage of war in Ukraine.
In a statement, AMEJA condemned and “categorically rejected orientalist and racist implications that any population or country is uncivilized or bears economic factors that make it worthy of conflict.”
“This type of commentary reflects the pervasive mentality in Western journalism of normalising tragedy in parts of the world such as the Middle East, Africa, South Asia, and Latin America. It dehumanizes and renders their experience with war as somehow normal and expected,” it added.
It further said that newsrooms must not make comparisons that weigh the significance or imply justification of one conflict over another — civilian casualties and displacement in other countries are equally as abhorrent as they are in Ukraine.
“AMEJA stands in full solidarity with all civilians under military assault in any part of the world, and we deplore the difference in news coverage of people in one country versus another. Not only can such coverage decontextualize conflicts, but it contributes to the erasure of populations around the world who continue to experience violent occupation and aggression,” the statement said.
AMEJA underscored that inaccurate and disingenuous comparisons only serve to inflame stereotypes and mislead viewers, and they ultimately perpetuate prejudicial responses to political and humanitarian crises.