Pope Francis denounced “fake news” as evil, comparing it to the snake that tempted Eve in the Garden of Eden.
In his annual social communications message, Francis dedicated his missive this year to “fake news and journalism for peace,” saying misinformation dates back to the Biblical beginning of time.
“The strategy of this skilled ‘Father of Lies’ is precisely mimicry, that sly and dangerous form of seduction that worms its way into the heart with false and alluring arguments,” he said, adding “fake news” played on stereotypes and prejudices. “This biblical episode brings to light an essential element for our reflection: There is no such thing as harmless disinformation; on the contrary, trusting in falsehood can have dire consequences.”
Francis then called on journalists to be “protectors of the news” and to rediscover the dignity of their profession. He said it was their responsibility to communicate the truth.
“The tragedy of misinformation is that it discredits others, presenting them as enemies, to the point of demonizing them and fomenting conflict,” Francis said.
A journalism of peace, Francis said, is one that is truthful, and devoid of “rhetorical slogans and sensational headlines.”
“A journalism created by people for people, one that is at the service of all, especially those – and they are the majority in our world – who have no voice,” he said. “A journalism less concentrated on breaking news than on exploring the underlying causes of conflict, in order to promote deeper understanding and contribute to their resolution by setting in place virtuous process. A journalism committed to pointing out alternatives to the escalation of shouting matches and verbal violence."
The Pontiff’s message comes after he faced unprecedented bad press during his South American tour. It also comes a week after President Trump announced his “Fake News Awards” winners.
The message made no reference to how some public figures often label unflattering or critical reports "fake news" to try to discredit the information.
Francis has frequently railed about journalists, and before he became pope was known for his frosty relations with the Argentine media. Just this week, while chatting with reporters aboard the papal plane, he admitted he hated giving interviews and joked: "And look at the job God gave me now."
The Associated Press contributed to this report.