Thursday, December 8, 2022

In reporting Ukraine’s plight, some in media use offensive comparisons

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The assertion went viral, and D’Agata, a veteran conflict correspondent, issued an apology Saturday, saying he had “used a poor choice of words” that he regretted. “What I had hoped to convey is that what’s unique about the fighting underway here is that this country has not really seen this scale of war in recent years, unlike some conflicts in countries I’ve covered that have tragically suffered through many years of fighting.”

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But D’Agata was simply certainly one of many correspondents and commentators utilizing offensive comparisons in their effort to clarify Ukraine’s plight.

ITV News correspondent Lucy Watson reported from a prepare station in Kyiv that the “unthinkable” had occurred to the folks of Ukraine. “This is not a developing third-world nation,” she stated. “This is Europe.”

Likewise, in a section on the BBC, David Sakvarelidze, former deputy prosecutor common of Ukraine, described his emotional response in seeing “European people with blue eyes and blond hair being killed, children being killed every day” in his nation.

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Daniel Hannan, a former Conservative member of European Parliament, wrote in London’s Telegraph newspaper of the Ukrainian folks being attacked: “They seem so like us. That is what makes it so shocking. War is no longer something visited upon impoverished and remote populations. It can happen to anyone.”

Such protection resorts to “Orientalist concepts of ‘civilization’ that have long been present in European colonial discourse,” stated Denijal Jegic, a postdoctoral researcher in communication and multimedia journalism at Lebanese American University in Beirut, in an interview. “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.”

Many conflicts outdoors of Europe or the United States are hardly lined in any respect, Jegic added, and when they’re, “coverage tends to focus on how the conflict is related to Western governmental interests and how it affects Western audiences.”

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But the deal with the humanity of the Ukrainians affected by the Russian invasion explicitly highlighted the lens by which European and American correspondents see a conflict so near residence.

“The casual racism is shocking,” stated Rasha Elass, a D.C.-based Syrian American journalist who traveled to Syria to cowl the battle there for a wide range of publications. The Russian invasion of Ukraine is jarring, as a result of “this is literally the closest it has gotten in our lifetime to a world war, … and in that regard, it is very different from the U.S. invading Afghanistan or the regional war in Syria. But it is not because one area is civilized and the other is not. It is because of the geopolitics and what is at stake.”

Philip Seib, professor emeritus of journalism and public diplomacy on the University of Southern California and creator of “Information at War: Journalism, Disinformation, and Modern Warfare,” stated such disparities in reporting have historic roots. “One of the most striking examples came in the 1990s, when tens of thousands of White people were dying in the Balkans and hundreds of thousands of Black people were dying in Rwanda, and the Balkans got much more coverage,” Seib stated. “There seems to be a gravitational pull leading to more Western coverage of people who are ‘like us,’ to use their term.”

“That’s attributable in part to the fact that these news organizations’ American constituencies feel closer to their roots in Europe,” he added. “If something comparable was happening in a Western European country, I think the coverage would be much more intense, and the public interest would be much more intense. That’s sort of a chicken or egg thing. What comes first: the news coverage or the interest?”

The pattern wasn’t remoted to English-language media retailers. Some lecturers famous that in sure French media retailers, Ukrainians fleeing their nation have been “refugees,” however Afghans doing the identical in August and September have been “migrants.”

On the French channel BFM TV, one other commentator famous that “we’re not talking about Syrians fleeing bombs of the Syrian regime backed by [Russian President Vladimir] Putin, we’re talking about Europeans leaving in cars that look like ours to save their lives.”

And in one other section, the channel’s Ulysse Gosset remarked that: “We are in the 21st century, we are in a European city, and we have cruise missile fire as though we were in Iraq or Afghanistan, can you imagine!”

Seib thinks these double requirements in worldwide protection will develop into much less outstanding over time as newsrooms diversify. “It’s slowly, slowly getting better, because the news business is becoming slowly, slowly more diverse,” he stated.

The theme was outstanding sufficient to achieve a point out on “Saturday Night Live” this weekend. The present opened with the Ukrainian Chorus Dumka of New York singing “Prayer for Ukraine.” But later, Weekend Update co-host Michael Che joked concerning the media protection of the battle, saying: “This is a tough subject to make jokes about. I mean, in my lifetime I’ve seen footage of attacks like this on other countries, but never a White one.”

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