The imbalance of media coverage in times of war

Alanna Sherman, Columnist

Content Warning: War, poverty, racial and gender-based violence 

Since the start of the year, Ukraine has consistently experienced violent invasions and attacks, severely harming the country and killing many Ukrainians. The media has swiftly covered the news and rapidly spread different methods of supporting Ukraine and its people. Businesses, celebrities and institutions have made statements standing in solidarity with Ukraine. Safeway encouraged customers to donate money to Ukraine alongside their purchases, and Whitman sent out an email extending its support. 

The media has covered the attacks on Ukraine the way the media should always cover acts of inhumanity: quickly and consistently. The media should be shining a light on Ukraine and advocating for its people, but it should also be bringing this level of awareness to all acts of violence and advocating for the safety and well-being of all people. 

Attacks on Ukraine began in February. In the same week, the U.S. carried out airstrikes in Somalia and yet the media was practically silent. In the same month, Israeli forces continued to demolish homes, villages, farmland and murder Palestinians, but the media continues to misrepresent and dismiss this settler-colonial violence. 

Afghanistan and Yemen are experiencing the world’s worst humanitarian crises as they face poverty, starvation, disease and violence inflicted by war and authoritarian control. Tigray is in the midst of large-scale famine, along with experiencing mass murder and sexual violence resulting from the ongoing war that started in 2020. An ongoing military coup in Sudan continues to murder unarmed protestors en masse as the country attempts to transition toward democracy after years of dictatorship. 

In 2022, Syria has already experienced multiple raids from the Israeli forces killing Syrian civilians and soldiers, following the 2021 U.S. bombings. People in Lebanon are still fighting their way through a crisis, as 80% of residents did not have access to healthcare, education and survivable shelter in 2021.

Violent acts of inhumanity are happening every day all over the world, and it is important to ask why the media channels most of its focus on one country or one group of people, and ignores the rest. Why is the United States so quick to condemn violence in some countries, but doesn’t acknowledge the violence it perpetuates or supports in others? 

The Western world has normalized violence in many countries as we label them as “war-torn” and “underdeveloped,” oftentimes after the U.S. or one of their powerful allies perpetuates violence due to economic interest, as if that justifies our failure to support people across the world. Why are we only expressing care towards people in Europe and what we consider to be first-world countries, and ignoring those in other countries that have been exploited and attacked? 

Over the past twenty years, the United States and allied air forces have dropped more than 337,000 bombs and missiles on other countries. The Biden administration quickly condemned attacks on Ukraine as Biden described Vladimir Putin as a “war criminal,” yet the U.S. President and media fails to acknowledge U.S. bombings of Iraq, Syria, Somalia and continued support for occupation and violence in both Palestine and Yemen. 

The media should be consistently covering Ukraine and we should all be supporting and caring for Ukrainians, but that doesn’t mean we can’t support and care for all people experiencing violence and seeking refuge. We need to pay close attention to what the media picks to discuss and ignore, and we need to acknowledge the violence the West perpetuates because we are only maintaining and condoning this violence the longer we ignore it.