Luckston De Silva
A few weeks ago, Pope Francis urged journalists to remain faithful to the truth by always checking facts and respecting individuals, but perhaps it was a story that did not get the coverage it deserved. The Pope met with members of the International Catholic Media Consortium and was speaking in the context of the pandemic, but his words have a wider interest.
Reflecting on misinformation of several issues of present and past, especially with regard to the Covid -19 pandemic, Pope Francis called on journalists to verify the facts they report and advised them not to adopt themselves to the attitude toward those who produce and consume fake news.
Quoting the words of Paul VI, Francis pointed out that the service provided by communicators involves much more than observing and reporting what is immediately evident. “The reporter relates the incident to the context in which it happens, investigates its causes, examines the surrounding circumstances and tries to assess the possible effects of what has happened”. For this reason, communicators must observe facts carefully, check their accuracy, make a critical evaluation of the sources of their information, and finally, pass on their findings.
But it does not end there: the burden of responsibility is even greater when the journalist must not only give the simple facts of a case, but also explain its implications by providing commentary and the necessary elements for a fair assessment.
“Together for truth”
Pope Francis reflected on the statement of goal of the Catholic Consortium, “together for truth”. He said that Christian communicators who educate the people and share knowledge are already offering ‘an initial form of witness’.
“To be properly informed, to be helped to understand situations based on scientific data and not fake news, is a human right. Correct information must be ensured above all to those who are less equipped, to the weakest and to those who are most vulnerable.” The Pope recalled that Christians are always “against injustice and lies, but always for persons.”
He urged members of the Catholic Consortium to never overlook that “fake news has to be refuted, but individual persons must always be respected, for they believe it often without full awareness or responsibility.” This approach calls for Christian reporters to be “evangelical in style, a builder of bridges, a promoter of peace, also and above all, in search for truth.”
The Pope recalled that “reality is always more complex than we think and we must respect the doubts, the concerns and the questions that people raise, seeking to accompany them without ever dismissing them.” He therefore urged Christian journalists to try to accompany people by providing answers in “a serene and reasonable way”.
Finally, Pope Francis encouraged the group’s goal of fact-checking, while warning against giving in to vested interests or commercial gains. “The antidote to every type of falsification is to let ourselves be purified by the truth. For Christians, truth is never merely a concept having to do with judgment about things. Truth regards life as a whole.”