Journalism based on rumor and gossip is akin to terrorism, Pope Francis said Thursday while addressing the leaders of Italy’s national journalists’ guild. The religious leader urged journalists not to resort to fear mongering or prejudice, particularly when reporting on issues concerning refugees fleeing from war-torn regions or famine, according to Newsweek.
Pope Francis went on to say that spreading lies and gossip is a way to”kill a person with your tongue.” Because their voice is heard around the world, journalists must be extra vigilant in their quest to find and report the truth. In our modern age of round-the-clock news, information comes and goes at a rapid pace, and is often quickly forgotten. However, an article spreading gossip and rumors can unfairly ruin a person’s reputation, sometimes forever.
In Italy, a number of newspapers are written with a particular political bent or bias. These publications often make vague, unproven insinuations about the private lives of those not sharing their opinions in an attempt to discredit them. An example was given in The Guardian of an incident concerning several media outlets run by the Berlusconi family. In 2009, Silvio Berlusconi, president at the time, was criticized by the journalists’ guild for coverage in his newspapers which questioned the honesty and credibility of a magistrate judge who had ruled against a company owned by his family. The articles made insinuating remarks about his clothes, including the color of his socks, and how he took walks in the park.
A long-time champion of refugees and migrants, Pope Francis has stated journalism should not be used as a weapon “against persons or even entire peoples.” He also stressed that it should never stir up hate and fear before forced migration due to war or hunger occurs.
Last year, after the attacks in Paris which claimed the lives of nearly 130 people, the right-wing French newspaper Libero used the headline “Islamic Bastards” for its story on the attacks. The same year, Il Giornale, an Italian right-wing newspaper wrote a story about the turbulent events in Libya and the fear that dangerous militants might sneak into the country, disguised among the migrants. The headline for their story read, Isis is coming. Let’s arm oursevles.
Newsweek quoted Pope Francis reminding journalists to respect their power and avoid spreading the “terrorism” of rumors. He said the voice of journalists can reach everyone and “this is a very powerful weapon.” For more CDA News, follow our tweets on Twitter and like us on Facebook.
By Rebeccah Dean