Ukraine war: The double standard in Western media coverage
Yasmina Benslimane is a human rights activist and the founder of Politics4Her, a feminist blog and youth-led movement that advocates for the inclusion of girls and women in politics. Here she shares her thoughts on mainstream media coverage of the Ukraine crisis in the West.
Since the war in the Ukraine began, we have seen an outpouring of solidarity over Russia’s invasion, a horrifying act of violence breaching all principles of state sovereignty and international law. There has been a feeling of shock that war is happening on European soil, as well as disbelief that white European citizens are among civilian casualties.
Reporters have repeatedly misstated that this is the first act of violence in Europe since World War II. It seems like they have forgotten about the Bosnian-Serbian conflict. Probably because Bosnians aren’t “white enough” for them, taking into consideration their religious beliefs.
It is sickening to see so many double standards in Western media coverage of the Ukraine invasion. Journalists have compared Ukraine to non-European (non-white) countries with racism, xenophobia, and Islamophobia. In 2022, we’re witnessing banalised racism on live TV, and it is disgusting, shocking, appalling, and very much unnecessary.
Since 9/11, Western media has seen the arrival of Afghan, Palestinian, Syrian, Iraqi, and other displaced people through much more of a national security lens than is the case with Ukraine. Migration is racialised, for example when people from the Global South move to the Global North we call them immigrants. When it’s the other way around, we call them ex-pats.
The asylum system was initiated in 1951, post-WWII, for Europeans fleeing war, persecution, and authoritarianism. They were seen as “deserving” of protection, just like Ukrainians today. However, when conflicts break in the Global South, asylum seekers from this region, crossing borders, risking their lives, and perishing in the Mediterranean are called “illegal” migrants, invaders and terrorists. These labels and terminologies create harmful narratives and influence policies and public opinion. These things matter. It is primordial to foster human dignity, no matter where you live, how you identify or what you look like, especially during such atrocities.
WHEN PEOPLE FROM THE GLOBAL SOUTH MOVE TO THE GLOBAL NORTH WE CALL THEM IMMIGRANTS. WHEN IT’S THE OTHER WAY AROUND, WE CALL THEM EX-PATS
Among refugees arriving from Ukraine, many foreigners including international students or economic migrants are being denied entry to neighbouring countries based on their skin colour and citizenship status.
According to the United Nations, it is estimated that over 1.2 million people have already fled Ukraine. UN High Commissioner for Refugees Filippo Grandi stated that: ”I have worked in refugee emergencies for almost 40 years, and rarely have I seen an exodus as rapid as this one.”
It is beautiful to see so many international organisations involved, so many alliances building, so many heads of states coming together, some many news outlets shedding light on Ukraine’s invasion by Russia, and so many countries opening their borders to Ukrainian citizens. Even Switzerland isn’t neutral anymore.
While we can feel for Ukraine and acknowledge that the West has come together, solidarity is much needed in times of war. We can still point out that the world is bleeding, that most conflicts take place in the Global South, yet they receive no media coverage or solidarity. There are countless forgotten wars, in many instances because of the West’s involvement and hegemony. These wars have led to the biggest displacements in human history, with countless civilian losses, sometimes lasting for decades. However, we have never seen much of them in the headlines, and even if we did, it was for a short period of time.
This has proved how self-centred Western mainstream media has always been. If something happens in the West, it makes the headlines, but if it happens in the rest of the world, it is considered banal simply because we have been dehumanised. We are perceived as “uncivilised”, as being from “remote” places. Even during the war, racism hasn’t taken a day off.
It is about time for Western news organisations to diversify their newsrooms because they are clearly filled with ignorance. Calling us uncivilised when the dawn of civilisation happened in Mesopotamia and modern humans originated in Africa, is the pinnacle of irony.
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