Filipino Catholic media told to fight 'fake news'

Bishops stress urgency in addressing spread of falsehoods, especially on social media
Filipino Catholic media told to fight 'fake news'

About 150 priests, nuns, and lay people attend a national convention of Catholic Media that ends in the southern Philippine city of Davao on Aug. 9. (Photo by Ayie Ortega-Villanueva)

Filipinos working in the church's social communication ministry need a lot of prayer and a "sense of mission" to be able "to combat fake news" and work for peace, a gathering in Davao City was told this week.

The head of the Philippine bishops' Commission on Social Communications told the gathering of Catholic media groups to be "journalists of peace."

"As Catholic media practitioners ... we must be men and women of prayer," said Bishop Mylo Hubert Vergara of Pasig, chairman of the commission.

"Being exposed to Jesus ... we clearly realize the font and source of what we proclaim," the prelate told delegates at the 4th National Catholic Media Convention.

About 150 priests, nuns, and lay people attended the four-day gathering to discuss "fake news" and the role of journalists in the peace process.

More than 80 dioceses across the country sent delegates to the gathering that ended on Aug. 9.

Archbishop Romulo Valles of Davao, president of the bishops' conference, quoted Pope Francis saying that the "best antidotes to falsehoods are not strategies, but people [who] listen, people who make the effort to engage in sincere dialogue so the truth can emerge."

At a press briefing on Aug. 8, the Davao prelate stressed the urgency in addressing the spread of so-called fake news, especially on social media.

He said people can end "fake news" if journalists "have pure hearts."

"It seems impossible, but we always pray and inspire people to abandon that life. We don't lose hope. Catholic media should inspire people in media. We should be conveyors of truth," said the prelate.

The gathering also held skills training sessions on social communications, including best practices in the provinces.

Last year, bishops issued a statement urging Catholics to refrain from "patronizing, popularizing, and supporting identified sources of 'alternative facts' or 'fake news.'"

In a pastoral exhortation, the bishops called on Filipinos not to be "purveyors of fake news" and "to desist from disseminating" false information.

The bishops said spreading "fake news" is a "sin against charity because it hinders people making right and sound decisions and encourages them, instead, to make faulty ones."

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