Pope Francis: Journalism has the power to promote peace

Pope Francis’s recent message for the World Day of Communications deserves some extra attention in this era of “fake news.” Here are four suggestions gleaned from “‘The truth will set you free’ (Jn 8:32): Fake news and journalism for peace.”

First, don’t be afraid of dialogue. He writes: “The difficulty of unmasking and eliminating fake news is due also to the fact that many people interact in homogeneous digital environments impervious to differing perspectives and opinions. Disinformation thus thrives on the absence of healthy confrontation with other sources of information that could effectively challenge prejudices and generate constructive dialogue; instead, it risks turning people into unwilling accomplices in spreading biased and baseless ideas. The tragedy of disinformation is that it discredits others, presenting them as enemies, to the point of demonizing them and fomenting conflict.”

Second, approach media with a healthy process of discernment. He writes: “We need to unmask what could be called the ‘snake-tactics’ used by those who disguise themselves in order to strike at any time and place. This was the strategy employed by the ‘crafty serpent’ in the Book of Genesis, who, at the dawn of humanity, created the first fake news (cf. Gn 3:1-15), which began the tragic history of human sin, beginning with the first fratricide (cf. Gn 4) and issuing in the countless other evils committed against God, neighbor, society and creation. ... There is no such thing as harmless disinformation; on the contrary, trusting in falsehood can have dire consequences. Even a seemingly slight distortion of the truth can have dangerous effects.”

Third, truth is the answer. He writes: “In Christianity, truth is not just a conceptual reality that regards how we judge things, defining them as true or false. Truth involves our whole life. In the Bible, it carries with it the sense of support, solidity, and trust, as implied by the root ‘aman,’ the source of our liturgical expression ‘Amen.’ Truth is something you can lean on, so as not to fall. In this relational sense, the only truly reliable and trustworthy One ­— the One on whom we can count — is the living God.”

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Fourth, seek peace. He writes: “I would like, then, to invite everyone to promote a journalism of peace. ... a journalism that is truthful and opposed to falsehoods, rhetorical slogans and sensational headlines. A journalism created by people for people, one that is at the service of all, especially those — and they are the majority in our world — who have no voice. A journalism less concentrated on breaking news than on exploring the underlying causes of conflicts, in order to promote deeper understanding and contribute to their resolution by setting in place virtuous processes. A journalism committed to pointing out alternatives to the escalation of shouting matches and verbal violence.”