Evacuate Our Allies Calls Out Biased Media Coverage of Forced Displacement
Against the backdrop of displacement crises in Afghanistan, the U.S.-Mexico border, and other areas, the differences in reporting are stark
Following media coverage of the humanitarian crisis sparked by the Russian invasion of Ukraine that shows implicit and explicit bias, the over 250 members of Evacuate Our Allies – a coalition of faith organizations, refugee and immigration groups, veterans and veteran service organizations, human and civil rights advocates, and Afghan American community organizations focused on the evacuation and resettlement of Afghans – demand that news and media organizations reflect on their racist, Eurocentric reporting and address this bias immediately.
“The humanitarian crisis in Ukraine is devastating. Our coalition stands in solidarity with all people affected by this war and with people affected by other wars around the world who have been forced to seek refuge,” said Chris Purdy, member of the Evacuate Our Allies Steering Committee and Director of Veterans for American Ideals. “There is no difference in the worth of the lives or narratives of people, no matter their country of origin. Decisions made by the media and in government in response to these crises must reflect that unassailable fact.”
Analysis in the Los Angeles Times reveals a pattern of biased reporting from outlets including CBS News, The New York Times, Al Jazeera, The Telegraph. Other outlets such as the United Kingdom’s ITV, France’s BFM TV, and Spain’s La Sexta have made appalling comparisons involving refugees. The Arab and Middle Eastern Journalists Association lists more. The impact of reporting that dehumanizes refugees from other parts of the world adds to the many other ways refugees have been racialized and otherized, in reports of mistreatment of African and Asian refugees fleeing Ukraine, from previous attempts by European countries to close their borders to asylum seekers fleeing other conflicts, and treating only Europeans with the respect all humans deserve.
“Biased portrayals by the media of who deserves refugee protection directly informs public opinion. The public then use their voices, their votes, and their dollars to support policies that reflect that opinion,” said Shala Gafary, Managing Attorney of Project: Afghan Legal Assistance (PALA) at Human Rights First and a member of the Evacuate Our Allies Steering Committee. “Unbiased depictions of all refugees — including the reality that not all borders are equally open to all people fleeing violence — would provide much-needed context to these complex international issues.”
Just as countries have a responsibility to welcome and support displaced people seeking safety no matter where they come from, media outlets must reckon with the role they play in upholding harmful biases. Newsrooms must hold their editors and reporters accountable, address bias and confront endemic racism, and be accountable for their reporting of war and on communities of color.