Following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, the whole world’s attention has turned to this humanitarian crisis.
During the ongoing media coverage from major international news outlets, a recurring pattern has emerged, suggesting that Ukrainian citizens are more deserving of sympathy than victims of other military conflicts outside of the Western world.
A number of comments made by journalists for The Telegraph, CBS News, the BBC and Al Jazeera English have sparked anger on social media for supposedly having biased and racist implications.
The way Western media portrayed Ukraine’s suffering as being “different” and labelling its citizens as more “civilised” has left a number of questions that need to be answered.
This is one of the signs of its double stands when compared to those suffering from wars in countries like Yemen, Libya, Ethiopia, Palestine and Syria among others.
News coverage of civilian Ukrainians defending their country by making cocktails bombs and arming themselves with state-given machine guns has also been celebrated as “heroic” and these people have been called “freedom fighters”.
This empathy has not been voiced for others like Palestinians who experience an identical crisis yet are labelled “terrorists” when defending their land.
There are numerous factors to consider, for instance crippling sanctions and the censoring of Russian media outlets such as RT in Europe.
This have not been consistent with the invasion of Iraq or following the bombing of Yemen by Saudi Arabia which continues to this day.
The abhorrent selective empathy, double standards and casual racism have unveiled deep-rooted injustice in parts of Western society where ethnicity, “whiteness” and location matter.
A piece in The Telegraph about Ukraine’s plight stated that “They seem so like us. That is what makes it so shocking. Ukraine is a European country. Its people watch Netflix and have Instagram accounts, vote in free elections and read uncensored newspapers. War is no longer something visited upon impoverished and remote populations.”
An NBC news reporter was questioned about how Poland’s refugee policy has changed compared to the last refugee crisis from Syria.
“These are not refugees from Syria, these are refugees from neighbouring Ukraine. I mean that, quite frankly, is part of it, these are Christians, they’re white, they’re very similar to people who live in Poland,” said the reporter.
Similarly,a CBS news reporter, describing the war in Ukraine said:
“This isn’t a place, with all due respect, you know, like Iraq or Afghanistan that has seen conflict raging for decades. You know, this is a relatively civilized, relatively European – I have to choose those words carefully for a city where you wouldn’t expect that or hope that it’s going to happen. So, it’s partly human nature.”
Ukraine’s deputy chief prosecutor, David Sakvarelidze, without censoring his tone or words told the BBC:
“I’m sorry. It’s really emotional for me because I see European people with blue eyes and blonde hair being killed, children being killed every day with Putin’s missiles.”
Political commentator and media host, Michael Knowlescallously tweeted.
“It just occurred to me that this is the first major war between civilized nations in my lifetime.”
Russia has caused chaos and immense suffering of innocent lives by invading Ukraine but, contrary to what Western media would have you believe, this is not the first invasion by a superpower.
The West has plenty of blood on its hands from Hiroshima to Drone Warfare.
However, those invasions and meddling with other nations think Vietnam, Iraq, Afghanistan, Syria, Yemen, Libya, Iran, Panama among others are somehow against “uncivilised” people. Ukraine is “civilised”, we are told.
The suffering in Ukraine must be highlighted, however portraying Ukraine’s pain as “more human” shows the deep hypocrisy at play.
Where refugees from third world countries are demonised and used by right-wing politicians to scaremonger, refugees from a European nation are shown a merciful and compassionate response. All refugees and people should be treated the same.
All human suffering should create a compassionate response.