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Coverage of Ukraine war is racist, says WHO chief

29th Apr 2022
Coverage of Ukraine war is racist, says WHO chief

WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus (Credit: Abdulhamid Hoşbaş/Anadolu Agency)

Hamed Chapman

The Director-General of the World Health Organisation (WHO) has criticised the global media attention focused overwhelmingly on the Russian invasion of Ukraine, implying it was racist when questioning whether “the world, really, gives equal attention to Black and white lives”.

Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus referred to other crises, such as in his home country of Ethiopia that do not receive the same concern as the Ukraine war and specified that conflicts in Yemen, Afghanistan, and Syria also only receive a “fraction” of the attention.

“I need to be blunt and honest that the world is not treating the human race the same way. Some are more equal than others. And when I say this, it pains me. Because I see it. Very difficult to accept but it’s happening. “

The WHO chief, who is from Tigray, was speaking at a news conference in Geneva on April 13. He previously referred to there being “nowhere on earth where the health of millions of people is more under threat” than in his region of Ethiopia. “As we speak, people are dying of starvation.

This is one of the longest and worst sieges by both Eritrean and Ethiopian forces in modern history,” he said. He added that thousands have been killed, including civilians, and millions are in need of vital aid. Stories of extrajudicial killings and sexual violence also exist.

Tedros acknowledged that the war in Ukraine was globally significant, but asked whether other crises were being accorded enough attention. He criticised the press for its failure to document the ongoing atrocities in Ethiopia, noting that people had been burned alive in the region. “I don’t even know if that was taken seriously by the media,” he said.

The Director-General highlighted the situation in Ukraine in the 50 days since Russia’s invasion on February 24. In that time, 4.6 million refugees have left the country, he said, and thousands of civilians have died, including children.

“For the sake of humanity, I urge Russia to come back to the table and to work for peace. In the meantime, humanitarian corridors must be established so that medical supplies, food, and water can be delivered, and civilians can move to safety,” he stated.

According to the UN, the world’s worst humanitarian crisis is ongoing in Yemen. More than 150,000 people are estimated to have been directly killed and millions displaced by fighting in the six-year-old civil war, exacerbated by Saudi-led military interference that was initially supported by the US but largely ignored by the media.

In Afghanistan, nearly 23 million people are facing starvation following the Taliban recapturing the country last August, as the US and its allies abandoned its failed mission there. Since January last year, an estimated 270,000 Afghans have been displaced, bringing the total uprooted population to over 3.5 million.

More than 14.6 million people require humanitarian assistance in Syria, where at least 350,000 have been killed, including 27,000 children, in more than a decade of war and military interference by western powers. In addition, the situation in the Occupied Territories remains unresolved after more than 70 years since Palestinians were driven from their homeland.

Since the Russian invasion of Ukraine, several journalists and television presenters have come under fire, including a senior CBS reporter who was forced to apologise for suggesting the situation was particularly shocking because the country is “relatively civilized” and “European” compared to Iraq and Afghanistan.

An NBC News correspondent was also criticised for stating on air that the refugees were not from Syria but Ukraine. They’re Christian, they’re white, they’re very similar.” In France, one analyst also made a racist remark, saying, “we’re not talking here about Syrians fleeing the bombing of the Syrian regime backed by Putin, we’re talking about Europeans leaving in cars that look like ours.”

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Over 120 people attended a landmark conference on the media reporting of Islam and Muslims. It was held jointly by The Muslim News and Society of Editors in London on September 15.

The Muslim News Awards for Excellence 2015 was held on March in London to acknowledge British Muslim and non-Muslim contributions to the society.

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