VATICAN CITY — The task of journalism is to seek the truth, which requires humility and freedom of the press, Pope Francis told foreign correspondents working in Italy.
“At a time when many spread fake news, humility keeps you from peddling food spoiled by disinformation and invites you to offer the good bread of truth. The humble journalist is a free journalist: free from pressures, free from biases,” he said, adding that such freedom also required courage.
The pope made his remarks during an audience at the Vatican May 18 with members of the Foreign Press Association in Italy.
He said the Church has always held the work of journalists in high esteem and regard, even when their job entails touching sore “wounds,” including wounds within the Church.
“Your work is valuable because it contributes to seeking the truth, and only the truth sets us free,” he said.
Because of the great impact they can have, journalists have a huge responsibility in the way they carry out their “indispensable role,” the pope said. They must pay attention to the words and images they choose and the information they share on social media, he said.
“Therefore, I urge you to work in accordance with the truth and justice so that communication may truly be a tool for building, not destroying; for coming together, not clashing; for dialogue, not monologues; for guiding, not disorienting; for understanding, not misinterpreting; for walking in peace, not sowing hatred; for giving voice to the voiceless, not for giving a bullhorn to the one shouting the loudest,” he said.
Journalists, Pope Francis said, must always recognize the power they hold in their hands and resist the temptation to assume they already know everything and resist publishing news that has not been adequately fact-checked.
“At a time when many tend to prejudge everything and everyone, humility also helps journalists not be dominated by speed and to try to slow down, to find the time needed to understand” and get all the facts right before telling the story or commenting, he said.
Pope Francis also recognized the danger many journalists are exposed to and the lives lost when covering conflicts or other tragedies.
“Freedom of the press and expression are an important indicator of the state of health of a country,” he added, noting how one of the first things dictators do is stop, manipulate or “disguise” the freedom of the press.
He told the correspondents the world needs journalists “who are on the side of the victims, the persecuted, those who are excluded, rejected and discriminated against” because of their religion or ethnicity.
The world needs a light shone on “the darkness of indifference” and to be consistently reminded of those who suffer, victims of forgotten wars, babies who are aborted, children who lack food and health care, child soldiers and the lives of those who have been violated, he said.
Do not forget the real people — their stories and dreams — behind the statistics when covering immigration, he also told the foreign correspondents.