The 13th of May 2018, represented a symbolic day slated for the commemoration of the world communications day. Pope Francis, as a customary way of marking the day, gave his message which was released on the 24th of January in memory of St. Francis de Sales, the patron saint of journalists.
The theme of the message being; “The truth will set you free”, the catholic pope seized the medium to advance the drive for a ‘Journalism of Peace’ rather than that which is based on witch-hunts and falsehood. He pointed out that humans are made in the likeness of God and are able to express all that is true, good and beautiful, but when they yield to pride and selfishness, the mode of using their ability to communicate becomes distorted.
Francis testified to the fast-changing nature of the current world of communication and digital systems and pointed out that fake news is on the spread.
He explained “that fake news has to do with false information based on non-existent or distorted data meant to deceive and manipulate the reader” usually for the advancement of specific political or economic goals.
He traced the origin of false news to the origin of man -the time of Adam and Eve and pointed out that no one can feel exempted from the duty of countering these falsehoods.
Explaining how to identify false news, Pope Francis noted that they go viral, spreading so fast that they are difficult to stop and that they appeal to the insatiable greed so easily aroused in humans. He agreed that an impeccable argument can indeed rest on undeniable facts but noted that “if it is used to hurt another or discredit that person in the eyes of others, however correct it may appear, it is not truthful”.
Francis pointed out that truthful statements can be recognized from their fruits as to “whether they promote quarrels, foment division, encourage resignation; or on the other hand, they promote informed and mature reflection leading to constructive dialogue and fruitful result.
He finally went ahead to fuel the drive for the promotion of peace via the news of truth and charges both journalists and the general public to promote a journalism of peace, noting that “the best antidotes to false news are not strategies but the people”.