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Pope Francis criticizes media for ‘sin’ of disinformation

Pope Francis speaks during the Ordinary Public Consistory at St. Peter's Basilica on November 19, 2016 in Vatican City, Vatican. (Franco Origlia/Getty Images)

Pope Francis, in an interview published Wednesday with the Belgian Catholic weekly publication “Tertio,” criticized media outlets that commit the "sin" of spreading disinformation.

Noting that the media have “a very great responsibility,” Francis said, “Nowadays they have in their hands the possibility and the capacity to form opinion: they can form a good or a bad opinion. The means of communication are the builders of a society. In and of themselves, they are made to build, to interchange, to fraternise, to make us think, to educate.”

The pontiff added that “it is obvious that, given that we are all sinners, also the media can — we who use the media, I am using a means of communication here — become harmful.”

“And the communications media have their temptations,” he added. “They can be tempted by calumny, and therefore used to slander, to sully people, especially in the world of politics.”

Francis said that the media sometimes sander people and “in slander we tell a lie about a person.”

“There is no right to this,” he said. “This is a sin and it is harmful.”

Francis said disinformation or “saying only a part of the truth” can “do great damage to the information media.”

“Because you, to the listener or the observer, give only half the truth, and therefore it is not possible to make a serious judgement,” he said. “Disinformation is probably the greatest damage that the media can do, as opinion is guided in one direction, neglecting the other part of the truth.”

“And then, I believe that the media should be very clear, very transparent, and not fall prey — without offence, please — to the sickness of coprophilia, which is always wanting to communicate scandal, to communicate ugly things, even though they may be true,” he continued. “And since people have a tendency towards the sickness of coprophagia, it can do great harm.”

Francis added that the media have the power to “do immense good.”

Reuters characterized Francis’ remarks as “some of the most blunt language the pontiff has ever used about the media.”

In September, Francis likened journalism that peddles gossip and fear to "terrorism."

The interview comes as the United States debates the impact of “fake news.”

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