Pope Francis this week urged the media to help in efforts to strengthen the common good, especially in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic.
“Let us use everything we can, especially the powerful instrument of the media, to build and strengthen the common good,” the pope said on May 3, World Press Freedom Day.
In 2019, the leader of the Catholic Church also called for free and unhindered journalism in the service of truth, goodness, and justice.
In an earlier message for this year’s World Day of Social Communication, the pope reminded journalists to meet people “face to face to research stories or to verify certain situations first-hand.”
He noted that too often investigative reporting was being replaced by a “standard, often tendentious narrative” not capable of grasping problems and aspirations at the grassroots level.
The pope also invited the faithful to inspire communicators to strive “to be clear and honest, in the press, on the internet, in the Church’s daily preaching and in political or social communication.”
Pope Francis also criticized what he described as the tendency to reduce news to pre-packaged, self-referential soundbites, reflecting only the concerns and viewpoints of the “powers that be.”
He said it leads to a flow of information “created in newsrooms” that does not accurately reflect reality on the ground.
Pope Francis, meanwhile, praised the courage of journalists who have faced grave risks to share the stories of those who are oppressed, of the sufferings of the poor and of creation, of forgotten wars.
Media watchdog Reporters Without Borders this year noted a global decline in press freedom brought about by draconian laws introduced during the pandemic.
Marking World Press Freedom Day, UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres said the situation for journalists continues to worsen.
“In too many countries, they run great personal risks, including new restrictions, censorship, abuse, harassment, detention and even death,” he said.
World Press Freedom Day marked its 30th anniversary this year since the adoption of the landmark Windhoek Declaration for the Development of a Free, Independent and Pluralistic Press in 1991.