Pope Francis on Saturday denounced “disinformation” and fake news spread in an effort to influence public opinion as journalism’s principal offence.
“Disinformation is the first of the sins, the mistakes — let’s say — of journalism,” Francis told Italian journalists at a Vatican gathering to bestow a journalism prize.
Widely considered a savvy communicator himself, the pontiff returned to the term “sins” to list what he called the four misdeeds of the media, according to the Vatican’s translated statement of his comments.
“Disinformation, when journalism does not inform or informs badly; slander (sometimes this is used); defamation, which is different from slander but destroys; and the fourth is… the love of scandal.
“I am concerned, for example, about the manipulations of those who interestingly propagate fake news to steer public opinion,” he said, urging a “reawakening of responsibility” in particular as Europe grapples with the ongoing war in Ukraine.
“My hope is that space will be given to the voices of peace, to those who are committed to putting an end to this as to so many other conflicts,” he said.
Francis, 86, has interacted extensively with the media since becoming head of the world’s 1.3 billion Catholics in 2013, appearing at ease and expansive in interviews — a far cry from his predecessor Benedict XVI.
Earlier this year, a documentary showing his no-holds-barred encounter with young adults, “Conversations with the Pope”, was released on the Disney+ streaming service.
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