The media’s role in the Russian-Ukrainian conflict


The media is a crucial element that influences the way people view the issues of today. Recently, the media has tackled ongoing Ukraine and Russian crisis, yet the representation of the war calls for an evaluation of how deeply racism is ingrained in mainstream media.

Ukrainian refugees have been painted as “civilized” and the media has often drawn up public empathy by saying they are “just like us.” However, if one were to look at the way the media have covered conflict and displacement from less developing countries such as Syria, Afghanistan, and Iraq, it would be clear that they received nowhere near the amount of sympathetic media coverage. The stark contrast between the way the media has portrayed these two sides exposes the double standards present, not only in Western media coverage but also in the Western perception of refugees.

Western media has emphasized the likeness between the characteristics of their general audience and Ukrainian refugees by commenting on their hair, skin, and eye colour. It is no coincidence that the representation of these refugees is met with an overwhelming need to side with and help the people affected by this conflict – a reaction that is rarely ignited in response to people displaced by conflict in other parts of the world.

The coverage of conflict elsewhere in the world hides behind a blanket of journalistic integrity and the need for the media to remain objective. For instance, the portrayal of the effects of tragedy in countries such as Syria, Afghanistan, and Palestine has been drastically watered down by the media as it is often described as something that has always been an issue. The media have stubbornly cowered behind their need to remain impartial by reasoning that there are always two sides to these conflicts and that there has always been a battle for power in these countries.

On the other hand, the reports on the Ukrainian conflict with Russia has seen Russia being identified as an oppressor. There is an emphasis on the fact that there are no two sides that need to be taken into account. There has been no question of who is in the right and who is in the wrong. Therefore, it is apparent that the blanket used by Western media to cower behind the excuse of impartiality is only used to put certain stories to bed.

It is no secret that the media builds the public’s opinion on modern issues, and the reporting of this conflict is no different. The effect of the media is partly to blame for Poland’s difference in attitude towards welcoming Ukrainians and other refugees past their borders. Poland has been praised repeatedly for the selflessness they have shown in welcoming those displaced by the Russian-Ukrainian war. However, their good deeds should not detract from their hypocritical approach to offering aid to those in need.

While warm meals and spare clothes are readily offered to Ukrainian refugees, the only thing offered to those trying to cross the border from Belarus is a harsher reality. People from Belarus who have tried to seek asylum in Poland have been met with violence and hostility at the border. The prejudice they face from Poland has led to an increase in the criminalization of anyone who tries to help them enter the country. The generosity of those who have helped Ukrainian refugees is applauded, meanwhile those trying to help asylum seekers from Belarus cross the border face criminal charges and jail time. The drastic contrast of the situation further highlights the issues of deeply rooted racism underlying the Western view of refugees.


Image:Strange Artifact on Flickr

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