01/24/2008, 00.00
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Pope: An "info-ethics" to prevent the media from manipulating consciences

In his message for World Communications Day, Benedict XVI highlights the "ambiguities" of progress in this sector. The new media, like telecommunications and the internet, are changing the face of communication.

Vatican City (AsiaNews) - An "info-ethics" to prevent the media from becoming "becoming spokesmen for economic materialism and ethical relativism, true scourges of our time", or from being "exploited for indiscriminate 'self-promotion' or to end up in the hands of those who use them to manipulate consciences". This is the idea that Benedict XVI presents in his message for the 42nd World Communications Day, made public today. In it, he emphasises among other things the role that communication can play thanks to recent technological developments. "The new media – telecommunications and internet in particular – are changing the very face of communication; perhaps this is a valuable opportunity to reshape it, to make more visible, as my venerable predecessor Pope John Paul II said, the essential and indispensable elements of the truth about the human person (cf. apostolic letter The Rapid Development, 10).

Reflecting on the theme of this day - "The media: at the Crossroads between activism and service. Seeking the Truth in order to share it with others" - the pope points out that "there is no denying the contribution they can make to the diffusion of news, to knowledge of facts and to the dissemination of information: they have played a decisive part, for example, in the spread of literacy and in socialization, as well as the development of democracy and dialogue among peoples."

But as it does in all of its aspects, developments presents an "ambiguity" in the media as well, due to the fact that "Unfortunately, though, they risk being transformed into systems aimed at subjecting humanity to agendas dictated by the dominant interests of the day. This is what happens when communication is used for ideological purposes or for the aggressive advertising of consumer products. While claiming to represent reality, it can tend to legitimize or impose distorted models of personal, family or social life. Moreover, in order to attract listeners and increase the size of audiences, it does not hesitate at times to have recourse to vulgarity and violence, and to overstep the mark. The media can also present and support models of development which serve to increase rather than reduce the technological divide between rich and poor countries." This is without overlooking that "in certain situations the media are used not for the proper purpose of disseminating information, but to 'create' events".

This "dangerous change in function" is for the pope made particularly worrying because of the role that the means of communication have taken on in society, such that they "must now be considered an integral part of the 'anthropological' question that is emerging as the key challenge of the third millennium".

"For this reason it is essential that social communications should assiduously defend the person and fully respect human dignity. Many people now think there is a need, in this sphere, for 'info-ethics', just as we have bioethics in the field of medicine and in scientific research linked to life".

The media, in fact, can and must contribute "to making known the truth about humanity, and defending it against those who tend to deny or destroy it".

"Man", the message concludes, "thirsts for truth, he seeks truth; this fact is illustrated by the attention and the success achieved by so many publications, programmes or quality fiction in which the truth, beauty and greatness of the person, including the religious dimension of the person, are acknowledged and favourably presented. Jesus said: 'You will know the truth and the truth will make you free' (Jn 8:32). The truth which makes us free is Christ, because only he can respond fully to the thirst for life and love that is present in the human heart".

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