“Relatively civilised”, “this is not a developing, third-world nation”, “they look just like us” are just a few examples of the recent coverage on Ukraine War. These narratives make me wonder, as a person from a developing, third-world country, who looks nothing like a European, whether we would receive sympathy from the West?
“This isn’t a place, with all due respect, like Iraq or Afghanistan, that has seen conflict raging for decades,” Charlie D’Agata, a senior CBS News correspondent, reported from Kyiv. “You know, this is a relatively civilized, 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. ”
This comment has caused online backlash, forcing D’Agata to apologise. But he’s not the only one to bring dangerous racial bias into reporting on Ukraine. It seems that wars raged in the Middle East and Africa are normalised. The world has become desensitised to the images of destructions in Syria, Yemen and Iraq. D’Agata’s comment only highlights this problem. But what’s interesting is that calling Ukrainians “relatively civilised” shows that even Eastern European perhaps aren’t seen as equal.
Lucy Watson, a reporter for ITV, has said: “Now the unthinkable has happened to them, and this is not a developing, third world nation, this is Europe.” When in January, just two months ago, violence broke out in my homeland-Almaty, Kazakhstan, none of us could have imagined or thought of it as possibility. Ordinary people, “middle-class families” had their businesses destroyed and lives put in danger overnight. I’d imagine none of the families in the Middle-East expected wars to come to their doorsteps either. But it seems that these overseas conflicts come as no surprise to the West.
Years of dehumanisation of wars in the Middle East have brought us to the point where violence and destruction are normalised. It is understandable that the proximity of Ukrainian war makes it more important on news agenda. A person who understands how news works would know that the closer stories are to the local interest, the more coverage they get. But the wars around the world deserve the same coverage, and at minimum the same amount of sympathy. To not have their lives unvalued, their voices discredited and their oppression normalised.
Even though Europe hasn’t had wars as of recently, it has been involved in many around the world. As Trevor Noah said in his show, “war was Europe’s thing. ” A 100 year war, First and Second World War have all taken place in Europe. We would hope these wars would never happen again. Not only in the west, but anywhere.