Media must promote culture of respect

VATICAN CITY — Communication is meant to be constructive, to connect people and promote understanding, but too often the media have degenerated into platforms to disseminate hatred, said Paolo Ruffini, prefect of the Vatican Dicastery for Communication.

“Evil cannot be fought with evil. Truth cannot be served with misinformation,” Ruffini said Feb. 3, speaking in Abu Dhabi at the Arab Media Convention for Human Fraternity, an event marking the first anniversary of the signing of the “Document on Human Fraternity.” The text of his speech was released by the Vatican.

The human fraternity document was signed in Abu Dhabi a year earlier by Pope Francis and Sheikh Ahmad el-Tayeb, the grand imam of al-Azhar and a leading religious authority for many Sunni Muslims around the world. The document included a commitment to promoting Christian- Muslim dialogue and working for religious freedom for all, denounced violence committed in the name of religion and discussed the role of the media in promoting respect and understanding.

Ruffini said the document calls upon journalists to, “work together, as people of goodwill, so that the digital era, the era of the mass media, the era of communication might lead us to the culture of mutual respect.”

Journalists should strive to remove “the false necessity of controversy, the false imperative that one’s identity depends on having an enemy,” he said.

“The world is hungry for peace, truth and justice,” he said, and it is up to journalists to satiate that hunger.

For the Vatican and for participants at the Abu Dhabi conference, Ruffini said marking the anniversary of the human fraternity document is a time to renew “the commitment to always be instruments of peace, even — or perhaps above all — in the way in which we communicate.”

The media, he said, have the potential to build up “universal fraternity,” but they also can be “the means to continue fomenting the misunderstandings, resentments and enmity, which have until now made an unfortunate tangled mess of our present and have threatened our future.”

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