On this Sunday,(May 13), all roads will lead to the popular Maria Assumpta Cathedral where all the media workers from across the State and beyond with their friends and well-wishers will join their counter parts all over the world to celebrate their annual World Communications Day. This annual intellectual harvest which is open to all starts by 9: am with a concelebrated high Mass at the Cathedral, followed by a lecture on this year’s theme by an eminent scholar carefully chosen by His Grace Most Reverend Anthony J.V. Obinna. It is expected that he will do justice to this year’s theme which the Holy Father prayerfully fashioned and presented to all the media workers all over the world. It is a day set aside by any sitting Pope to challenge and deepen the knowledge of communicators in their chosen profession.
This time every year since the past fifty one years, the Holy See comes up with a theme which encapsulates the signs of the period. The message comes down to every country and to every state. Hence the media workers take up the assignment of analyzing the theme in line with the prevailing situation in any country or state. This year theme of the Pope’s message reads, “The truth will set you free (Jn. 8:32)”Fake news and journalism for peace”.
Going down the memory lane, we observe how apt the themes for various world communication days have been since its inception in 1967. The themes have addressed various issues ranging from peace, justice to nation building. Some of the pertinent examples are among others; “Social communication and development of nations” (1968) “Social communication and the Fundamental Rights and duties of man” (1976). “Social communications and the family (1980) Social Communications and the promotion of peace” (1983) “Social communications at the service of justice and peace” (1987) “Social communications and the promotion of solidarity and fraternity between peoples and Nations”. Just to mention these few.
This year, His holiness Pope Francis comes up with a theme that is relevant to humanity particularly to our contemporary Nigerians as we prepare to launch ourselves into the electioneering campaign and subsequent voting of our leaders come 2019. This time when journalists and news presenters in the radios and televisions and other media outfits have started gradually to load their barrels of hate —languages, calumny and name-callings etc, throwing overboard their prophetic role, the Pope came up with a theme which speaks to their consciences. The 2018 theme for the World Communications Day is indeed soul searching as it re-echoes, “The truth will set you free” (John 8:32) “Fake News and Journalism for peace”. The theme has so many points to ponder, first “The truth will set you free”. The truth we are referring to in this context is Jesus Christ; He is the way, the life and the truth. The Catholic Church believes that the origin of human communication is located in the Divine Trinity.
According to a renounced writer called Barclay, “knowing the truth involves constant obedience to the words of Jesus. When a communicator distances him or herself from the author of communication then the devil takes over with his love of money, fame and falsehood. As journalists and media workers, our goal should not hinge on mere academic satisfaction or intellectual appreciation. Our prophetic role should be upper most and our desire to uphold the will of God in our chosen profession must be our preoccupation.
Like every good citizen of this modem world, the Pope is deeply concerned about the dangerous effects of fake news which we spread in the audio, visual, print and other social media today.
Reflecting on the theme for this year’s World Communications day the Holy Father challenges the media workers all over the world to proffer solution to this evil called fake news and determine the way forward for the sake of peace.
When the internet is searched one discovers that fake news is often given with the intent to mislead or damage an agency, a person, an institution, an authority and even the Church as we see it today in Imo State. It may also be aimed at gaining financial or political advantage by using sensational, dishonest or outright fabricated headlines. Often the desire may be to attract or increase viewership for the television, listenership for the radio, readership for newspapers and in the internet world to increase online sharing and internet click revenue.
However, fake news undermines serious media coverage and bastardizes our advocacy of journalism for peace. The Catechism of the Catholic Church (No. 2494) asserts that every society has a right to information based on truth, freedom, justice and solidarity. Unfortunately, in the words of a great philosopher, Plato, “No one is more hated than he who speaks the truth” but the truth must be said. Yet, we must always bear in mind that every true media worker is a prophet in his or her own right. We should therefore be always prepared with the knowledge that in this prophetic role, many dangers abide. Let us look at the Jesus who is our model. He was crucified for the sake of the truth but he resurrected on the third day. Here in Nigeria and in our own time Dele Giwa was murdered for the sake of truth. He has died many years ago but his name lives on and rings a bell in the ears of concerned Nigerians.
Today, the Pope extends an invitation to every media worker all over the world. He asks us to love our job and live our job. We may be poor financial but as long as we stand up for the truth, we are counted great before God and His Angels. To encourage and strengthen the resolve of Christian Media Workers, the pope asked us to pray thus;
Lord, make us instruments of your peace. Help me to recognize the evil latent in a communication that does not build communion. Help us to remove venom from our judgments. Help us to speak about others as our brothers and sisters. You are faithful and trustworthy; may our words be seeds of goodness for the world. Where there is shouting, let us practice listening; where there is confusion, let us inspire harmony; where there is ambiguity, let us bring clarity; where there is exclusion, let us offer solidarity; where there is sensationalism, let us use sobriety; where there is superficiality, let us raise real questions; where there is prejudice, let us awaken trust; where there is hostility, let us bring respect; where there is falsehood, let us bring truth. This will remain our prayer as we celebrate the 2018 World Communications Day through Christ our Lord. AMEN.
Rev. Fr. George Nwachukwu
Director of Communications/Media
Catholic Archdiocese of Owerri