Prof. ST Hsieh
Director, US-China Energy Industry Forum
March 5, 2022
The following news report “warns of Racism, Biases in Western Media” is a very timely reminder of the prevailing culture injustices. But it is unfortunate that people needed a bloody war in Europe to wake up to this reality. In fact, many wars could be attributed to news media bias. If global media could be neutral and make unbiased coverages, many wars could have been bypassed. Today, there are many misunderstandings and misconceptions among different cultures/societies, it is the principal duty of professional journalists to tell the truth politely. Otherwise, news media are dangerous and cause further pians on victims. More so, biased reports fan the hattery and propagate conflicts.
The following report highlights western media bias in favor of “Caucasian race” and normalises war in non-European regions. It is pretty bad and fundamentally wrong. But it can be attributed to the ignorance of individual journalists, they are not intentional. But it will take sincere commitment and education to effectively eliminate such ignorance or prejudice. And it should be done long time ago. Unfortunately, racial discrimination and injustice in the US society are a good case study. US government is committed to enforce the law, but it is still rampart on the ground level. Looking around the globe, much effort and time will be needed, but consistent, enhanced mutual understanding with culture exchanges in peace time are essential. There is no quick fix.
The more dangerous media bias is in the form of institutional bias. Local media is heavily influenced by national government policy and/or local politics. It is understandable, but not acceptable. It is customary and preemptively classifying the opponent view as disinformation or propaganda. Then local media only presents one side of the story. For example, Ukraine war is ten days old, we are constantly and repeatedly updated by western media coverages. Any speech, statement, announcement from Russia is glossed over with English comments. So, it is really difficult to understand how the battle has been fought in Ukraine, means the causalities, physical damages, and frontlines. We wish the bloody war will end soon but we really do not have any sense what the end of this war looks like. Sure, gun fires will stop, but will there be peace? What will the post-war Ukraine look like, in terms territory integrity, governance, defense, population size, and economy. One thing is sure, though, the geopolitical landscape in Europe, and even the world, will be permanently changed and our future will be dangerous.
Journalists’ Body Warns of Racism, Biases in Western Media Coverage of Ukraine
The Arab and Middle Eastern Journalists Association pointed out that some comments by Western journalists either privileged the Ukrainians’ Caucasian race or economic status, contrasting them with people from Middle Eastern or North African countries.
New Delhi: A network of Arab and Middle Eastern journalists has asked media organisations, particularly Western ones, to be wary of implicit and explicit bias in their coverage of the Russian invasion of Ukraine, saying it has observed examples of racist coverage that normalises war in non-European regions.
The Arab and Middle Eastern Journalists Association (AMEJA) said it has tracked “examples of racist news coverage that ascribes more importance to some victims of war over others”. It cited examples of comments made by analysts and reporters of prominent media organisations like CBS News, The Telegraph and Al Jazeera English. These comments either privileged the Ukrainians’ Caucasian race or their economic status, contrasting them with people from Middle Eastern countries or North Africa.
“AMEJA condemns and categorically rejects 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 normalizing 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,” the journalists’ body said in a statement.
Media organisations 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 said.
The body said that to prevent explicit bias, newsrooms must train correspondents on the cultural and political nuances of regions they’re reporting on, and not rely on American- or Euro-centric biases. “Inaccurate and disingenuous comparisons only serve to inflame stereotypes and mislead viewers, and they ultimately perpetuate prejudicial responses to political and humanitarian crises,” the statement said.
Denijal Jegic, a PhD researcher in communication and multimedia journalism at Lebanese American University in Beirut, told Washington Post that such coverage has long been present in European colonial discourse. “This implicitly suggests that war is a natural phenomenon in places outside of the Euro-American sphere, and the Middle East in particular, and that war would take place because of a lack of civilization, rather than due to unjust geopolitical power distribution or foreign intervention,” he said.
Rasha Elass, a Syrian American journalist, said the casual racism in these segments was shocking. He said the Russian invasion of Ukraine is very different from the US invading Afghanistan or the regional war in Syria because “this is literally the closest it has gotten in our lifetime to a world war”, not because one area is “civilised” and the other is not.
The newspaper added that such coverage was not isolated to English-language media outlets. For example, some French media organisations referred to Ukrainians fleeing their country as “refugees” but Afghans who were doing the same after the Taliban takeover in August last year were called “migrants”.