top of page

Western media and the COVID-19 Asia Filter

Updated: Mar 12, 2023

Dear Asian Youth,

As COVID-19 continues to impact humans on a global scale, some of us are slowly recovering, while others continue to struggle under the distressing circumstances brought about by the virus. News outlets and social media platforms are busy broadcasting the world’s progress in combatting the virus. Though I appreciate the power of journalism to keep us aware and informed, I can’t help but notice a reoccurring bias against Asian countries present in Western media broadcasts of the pandemic. I understand that it is inevitable for media outlets to carry a certain degree of bias, however, it becomes problematic when the bias serves to distort realities and construct a negative image under a greater agenda of Western supremacy.

I’m sure some of you have heard about BBC’s infamous “underworld filter” on Wuhan. In summary, BBC News published a video highlighting how the pandemic has impacted life in Wuhan, China. Two versions of the video were posted with the exact same footage, with one version in Chinese and the other in English. Internet users were quick to notice that the English version of the short documentary had an added filter that decreased the saturation of the video (pictured below). Compared to the Chinese version, the English version’s loss of color created a much gloomier and depressing atmosphere. The video, as expected, caused significant uproar as angry viewers raised doubts regarding the news outlet’s integrity and calculated efforts to misdirect the audience about China’s recovery from the pandemic.

Footage of the Chinese version (pictured left) versus the English version (pictured right).

In addition to this, BBC has previously been accused for its biased news production method that selectively includes visuals that purposefully paint China in a bad light. There are numerous filmmaking and video editing techniques that can be used as weapons to undermine truth. For example, camera angles could be deliberately placed in lower or more hidden areas to imply that filming is not allowed. Video editors could pick apart footage to only include videos that contain distressing scenes. Using these “techniques”, Western media outlets are adamant in constructing a narrative that China is recovering under a repressive authoritative regime. I personally have had friends from the United States ask me whether or not life is really that “depressing” in China, and I’ve had to reassure them multiple times that our lives are not as Western media has depicted them to be. My mom recently went on a business trip to Wuhan, and she came back telling stories of how life is progressing back to normal. Shops are opening back up again, streets are filling with people, and most are hopeful that the city will make a full recovery in the near future. Sadly, this may not be the recovery state reflected in media reports.

Another case worth bringing up is the Western media’s insensitivity when it came to broadcasting India’s experience with the second wave of the COVID-19 pandemic. During times where Indian hospitals were at full capacity treating ill patients, many reporters and their crew members were seen barging into hospital premises for footage. Additionally, Indian citizens who’ve lost their loved ones to the pandemic were blocked by reporters for interviews. Therefore, the Western media is filled with graphic images of Asian tragedies. The Western media is often what shapes international perceptions of various countries; biased coverage serves only to create false realities for Asian nations. Objectivity is one of the integral pillars of journalism, and it pains me to see how the influence of media is being abused by those in power with an agenda.

Western media often chooses to turn a blind eye to many positive aspects of Asian countries when it comes to fighting the pandemic. Why? This may be due to the fact that many political leaders try to divert attention from COVID-19-related issues occurring in their own nations by placing blame on China for “creating” the virus. Media, in this case, is unfairly used as a polarizing political tool. As a result, prejudice against Asians in the West continues to grow and manifest itself in the media, both subtly and overtly. Hence, it is imperative for us to be aware and informed of possible bias before making false judgements that could hurt large groups of people. At times like these, we need to stand united as one human race, and we should not let biased media divide collaborative efforts.

– Eva Zhong

Editors: J. P., L. L., B.S., L.C., S.G.

bottom of page