The media has a huge responsibility as it reports the war in Ukraine and the likely movement of millions of refugees

Kim Nelson Communications Officer 2nd March 2022

Ukrainians fleeing to Hungary. Photo credit: BBC News

Media coverage of the Russian invasion of Ukraine has played a crucial role in helping us to understand a rapidly changing situation. Now, with millions of Ukrainians on the move, we need to ensure that the media does not feed into negative, racist or stereotypical rhetoric with regard to refugees, writes Kim Nelson.

Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has shocked us all. It could risk human suffering on a scale that Europe has not seen this century. It has been deeply alarming to hear reports of the mounting civilian death toll, the targeting of hospitals, residential areas and schools, and the massive displacement within Ukraine and beyond.

People are now fleeing for their lives. The UN estimates that more than half a million people have fled to neighbouring countries, with more than 140,000 people displaced within the country. As the conflict escalates, these numbers will inevitably increase.

We, at the International Rescue Committee, are already preparing for the worst.

As I write this, my colleagues in Poland are working quickly to mobilise resources and connect with partners to establish a response to support civilians forced to flee their homes.

Bearing witness has been heart wrenching – at times, terrifying. The media coverage has been powerful in telling the stories of people whose lives have been shattered by conflict. We have all seen those desperate scenes of people sleeping in subways, families leaving their homes with next to nothing, walking for days and scrambling onto trains to find a path to safety. It has been difficult to watch sometimes.

I have a huge admiration for the journalists who are currently in Ukraine, and neighbouring countries, at times risking their lives to report on an increasingly volatile crisis. As an emergency unfolds, we must remember the crucial role that the media can play. In an age of disinformation, coverage has helped to cut through the noise and has aided our understanding of a rapidly changing situation.

The media hold a huge responsibility, of fair and factual coverage, but also of influencing hearts and minds.

It is imperative that media coverage of this crisis does not feed into negative, racist or stereotypical rhetoric with regard to refugees. At IRC, we believe everyone, regardless of race, nationality, gender or sexuality should be able to seek safety and through our work in over 40 countries around the world, we have seen the amazing, positive impact refugees have had on economies and societies in which they live.

Although the scale of the crisis can be overwhelming, it is important to remember that you can take action. Here are some steps you can take:

Speak out

Whilst we have already seen some commitments from this Government to welcome refugees from Ukraine, there is more that can be done. Last week the IRC joined others in calling for the UK to take more action. Raise your voice with us. Write to your local MP, calling on the UK government to welcome refugees from Ukraine.


As the humanitarian response ramps up, donations are sorely needed. The IRC has launched an emergency appeal to help support displaced families with critical aid. Donating to NGOs on the ground remains one of the best ways that people can support those that need it most.

Get informed

Since the 2014 annexation of Crimea and the outbreak of armed conflict in eastern Ukraine, even before the latest escalation of violence, the conflict has left 3,000 people dead, displaced 850,000 Ukrainians from their homes, and placed 3 million people in need of humanitarian aid. The current conflict has the potential to be the worst humanitarian crisis Europe has seen in decades. Get up to speed on the situation here.

Raise your voice

Whether it is on social media or on the streets, raise your voice and stand with the Ukrainian people. Share our message of solidarity with the Ukrainian people, or keep an eye out for community vigils which are being organised across the country.


Kim Nelson is Communications officer with the International Rescue Committee. You can follow Kim on Twitter @K_A_Nelson

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