The media has no place for bias or harmful language, but the Ukraine-Russian war has highlighted instances of just that, with racist comments made by news reporters.
On Feb. 26, just days after the Russian invasion of Ukraine, CBS News correspondent Charlie D’Agata made comments during a news report that included language with racism, bias and white superiority complex behind it.
“This isn’t a place, with all due respect, like Iraq or Afghanistan, that has seen conﬂict raging for decades,” D’Agata said. “This is a relatively civilized, relatively European – I have to choose those words carefully too – city, one where you wouldn’t expect that or hope that it’s going to happen.”
His claim that majority-Muslim countries in the Mideast are inherently uncivilized and violent is highly problematic. Unfortunately, he is not the only journalist to have reported on the war with harmful language like this.
In an article written for The Telegraph on Feb 26, British journalist Daniel John Hannan was surprised to see blue-eyed people with blonde hair – or in other words, white people – among the refugees.
“They seem so like us. That is what makes it so shocking. Ukraine is a European country,” Hannan said. “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.”
War is not something destined for poor, brown people like Hannan implied. It is tragic and shocking no matter who the victims are.
The Arab and Middle Eastern Journalists Association has since issued a statement in response to the Western press’ coverage of the war in Ukraine.
“Newsrooms 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,” the Association stated.
It is disappointing to see prominent figures in the news – the news in which the world depends on for accurate reporting on the world – say such things. As media professionals, we need to do better.