Why we cannot afford to look away
We are at risk of disaster fatigue around the war in Ukraine as new atrocities crowd the story out of the news
19 Apr 24

Operations in eastern Ukraine after the invasion of Crimea. Photo: Ministry Of Defence Ukraine, Дмитрий Муравский

The world seems to be breaking at the seams. Our news is filled with images of war and the horror and fear that accompany them. We cannot afford to turn a blind eye to the suffering and devastation wrought by war and to be distracted from established conflicts as new ones emerge.

This week, Russia’s ongoing and illegal aggression in Ukraine has almost passed without comment but Russia’s announcement of more mercenaries, coupled with Ukraine’s adjustment of conscription laws to enlist younger individuals, and the dwindling air defences amidst brutal bombardments by Russia on innocent families, serve as stark reminders of the ongoing crisis in Ukraine.

It’s a scenario we’ve seen unfold before. Initially, a conflict captures our attention, eliciting outcry and calls for action. However, as time passes, disaster fatigue sets in, a new disaster hits the news and the plight of those affected fades from public discourse. This is understandable and a completely human reaction. Horrors being played out on television screens night after night harm wellbeing and in some situations drive communities in other nations further apart.

The situation in Sudan stands as a harrowing testament to this phenomenon. Last week marked the first anniversary of the war in the region, yet over 8 million people are displaced, journalists continue to face persecution and activists and human rights defenders who strive to tell us the stories of atrocities unfolding are finding it harder by the day.

We must not allow history to repeat itself. In Ukraine we are at risk of seeing this happen. Every conflict demands our attention and action. While these wars may seem distant, the consequences of our indifference reverberate globally. Without international pressure for de-escalation and accountability, the waves of violence will inevitably crash upon our shores.

At Index on Censorship, we understand the fundamental role that freedom of expression plays in holding power to account and safeguarding human rights. When journalists are silenced, when dissidents are suppressed, the fabric of democracy unravels, leaving room for tyranny to flourish.

The illegal invasion of Ukraine by Vladimir Putin is not just a regional conflict; it is a test of our collective resolve to uphold the principles of peace, freedom, and justice. As the world watches, we cannot afford to look away. We must stand in solidarity with the people of Ukraine, amplifying their voices and advocating for an end to the Russian violence and aggression.

It is imperative that we keep the spotlight firmly fixed on Ukraine, ensuring that the atrocities committed do not fade into obscurity. Through relentless advocacy, robust journalism, and unwavering solidarity, we can make a difference. Let us not forget the lessons of the past, nor forsake our responsibility to act in the face of injustice.

Together, let us reaffirm our commitment to a world where freedom of expression is cherished, where human dignity is upheld, and where dissidents are free to highlight the plight within their nations.