western media bias

Written by Syed Haris Shah 12:30 pm Articles, Current Affairs, International Relations, Published Content

Decoding the Bias & Double Standards of Western Media over the Ukraine Crisis

The international media groups have been focusing on the Russian invasion of Ukraine very closely. Claiming the people of the West as more “civilized” than those in Africa and the Middle East, there is no doubt that leading media groups have a prejudiced mindset. The author, Syed Haris Shah, believes that the Orientalist aspect is still present in the media and within the intellectual circles of the West. The coverage of the Ukrainian crisis exhibits an elitist-inclined narrative that disregards the similar woes of those in the East and South.
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Syed Haris Shah is a pupil of peace and conflict studies at National Defence University, Islamabad.

The Russo-Ukrainian War

Russia’s invasion of Ukraine was preceded by the deployments of thousands of soldiers near Ukrainian borders and in Belarus. The war has brought dynamic discussions and debates over the spheres of international media, particularly the Western media bias. Groups raised the issue and criticized the invasion by Russia and put Vladimir Putin and his aligned elitist Russian individuals at the core front for being responsible for the war.

There is no doubt that media groups like CNN, BBC, CBS, NBC, and many other Western media groups have shown solidarity. They have also raised the sentiment that the Russian military invasion is costing human rights and impacting the position of the people of Ukraine.

Air raids by Russia in urban centers are opening a path for multiple violations of International Law, including a possibility of the ‘crimes against humanity’. The media groups along with civil society in Europe and North America are building a strong narrative condemning and maintaining pressure towards Moscow through an organized campaign on every platform.

Not Human Enough

There is an outcry among the media groups of the Middle East and social media platforms in Asia and Africa regarding the standpoint of the United Kingdom’s diplomats and its media sources that set their own “standards” of a humanitarian crisis.

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The xenophobic and mendacious opinions of media commentators and journalists can be verified from the statement that, “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 where you wouldn’t expect that, or hope that it’s going to happen.”

These are the words of one of famous correspondent Charlie D’Agata of the leading Western media group, CBS. D’Agata did apologize for such statements, but the case does not end here. There was even a setting of parameters in between the bombings and violence provoked by Russians in Syria and Ukraine in a point of view of an analyst of BFMTV, France; he stated that “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”.

Biased Portrayals

The deliberate comments and bias portray Islamophobia and white supremacy in Western media groups. From the point of view of Kelly Cobiella, a correspondent of NBC News, “these are not refugees from Syria, these are refugees from Ukraine… They’re Christian, they’re white, they’re very similar.” Western media is definitely acknowledging the point of being responsible with the conduct of peace and conflict-sensitive journalism and reporting in Ukraine.

However, when it comes to the conflicts, terrorism, civil wars, and structural violence due to the Machiavellian policies of the West in Afghanistan, Syria, Somalia or any other state of Africa or Asia, the courses of reporting are totally enhanced from the factor of conflict journalism and exaggeration of xenophobic sentiments. This point can be verified from a comparison of two different statements over the refugees of Ukraine from the relatively “uncivilized” states of the global South.

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Daily Mail, a leading newspaper of UK, stated in a comment that, “there were heart-wrenching sights as families were forced to part, with fathers waving a tearful goodbye to their wives and children, then returning to fight the Russians in Ukraine’s desperate defence. Scuffles and fighting erupted in the densely-packed ticket hall as seats on all services leaving the war zone soon sold out. Even as air raid sirens blared out across the city, the refugees kept on coming.”

The same source also stated that, “Sorrow is not enough. We can and must help”. The statements that were made by the media groups of West on the refugees from either Syria or any other state of the East that were approaching Europe were, “Gunships should be used to stop migrants”. These were the remarks made by the leading media personality of UK, Katie Hopkins, who also compared refugees of Syria to “cockroaches”.

The bias by the Western media groups against the people suffering from war in Syria or Afghanistan proves the point of postcolonialism, wherein hierarchies are set to declare their own sets of “selective humanity”. Edward Said proved this point that certain stereotypical standards, symbols, and beliefs are present in the structures of knowledge of the West.

Framing Orientalism in Contemporary Western Media’s Discourses

Orientalism is a theoretical point of view of postcolonialism that determines the point of framing the position of the people in the East and formerly colonized world (or the global South) in a set of some imaginations, perspectives, symbolisms or as being dangerous, barbaric and uncivilized. Edward Said introduced this theory in his book ‘Orientalism.’

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Undoubtedly, Said’s point of view perfectly unmasks the bombast of the media houses and commentators from the West in the crisis created due to Russian invasion of Ukraine. Therefore, the point had been justified through the case in which Lucy Watson reporting about the situation in Ukraine from a railway station at Kyiv said that “This is not a developing third-world nation…this is Europe”.

The oriental point of view gives a justification for this relevant case of Lucy Watson that people of the developed and “progressive” world matter more than those living in the East where crises have caused massive human rights violations and humanitarian crises. The media coverage by mainstream groups has already been equated through factual basis with the point of Orientalism by Denijal Jegic, a researcher in the field of journalism and communications at Lebanese American University.

Jegic has stated that, “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”. The statement intensifies the point of how the West has framed a narrative based on xenophobic and superiority-based complexes towards the people of not only Middle East, but also the entire global South.


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