News and Religious Liberty

Andreas Mazza, EUD Communication Department

The world today more than ever, experiences the ordeal of many conflicts, both among different countries (Israel-Palestine, etc.) and among ethnic groups within the same country (Ukraine, Nigeria, etc.).

Sometimes these conflicts manifest themselves openly as real 'wars between religions', sometimes inter-religious hatred is disguised in the form of social, ethnic and political conflicts. In any case, religious affiliation always plays a major role, because it touches the deepest values of every human being.

Although religious conflicts are as ancient as the human race on earth (read about the wars in the Old Testament, in the Koran...the crusades, etc.), the problem appears more dramatic in recent times. We progressively live in a global era, in which each local problem becomes global and vice versa. In addition, more sophisticated powerful weapons of war have the potential to erase mankind within seconds.

In a globalized world, the media is of strategic importance, almost crucial.

The media has varied technologies intended to reach a large audience by mass communication. Broadcast media such as radio, recorded music, film and television transmit information electronically. Press media uses tangible objects such as newspapers, books, or pamphlets, to distribute information. Outdoor media includes billboards, signs or placards placed inside and outside of commercial buildings, sports stadiums, shops and buses. Other outdoor media involves flying billboards (signs in tow of airplanes), blimps, and skywriting. Public speaking and event-organising can also be considered a form of mass media. The digital media comprises both internet and mobile mass communication. It provides many average internet media services: such as email, websites, blogs, and internet based radio and television. Many other media outlets are available on the web, by having longer available products such as TV ads that link to a website, or distributing in print or QR Code in outdoor media to direct the mobile user to a website. (Wikipedia)

The media not only influences, but often determines local and global events. The News has a direct and powerful impact on public opinion, according to the reports given. Clearly, the larger the audience of the TV channel, radio or internet, the greater the influence.

This explains why politics and economics always try to take control of the media.

Especially interesting in this regard is the development of global social networks (Twitter, Facebook, etc.) enough to force governments to censor and suspend internet services. Someone has even identified social networks as the cause for the social protests and revolutions in Arab countries: the so-called Arab Spring. Censorship is certainly not the right way to handle the problem, but proper control is - and many social networks are running for cover by establishing rules and regulations for the proper use of their systems)

All this must compel mass-media operators (journalists) to reflect on their responsibility. What does it really mean to be a journalist?

Journalism means collecting, analyzing, verifying and presenting information regarding current events, trends, issues and people. Those who practice journalism are known as journalists. (Wikipedia)

It is therefore part of Religious Freedom to publish with a greater spirit of tolerance and respect, certainly trying to be promoters of human rights and freedom of conscience, but doing so with great balance and sensitivity. Mass-media operators, especially News Broadcasters, need to be aware of their influence and power and act accordingly, trying to keep a proper equidistance from economic and political power.

In many parts of the world, religious topics easily inflame the ego and this must be taken into account.

Sensitivity, skill and balance are the essential qualities of all those who work with NEWS, in particular those relating to human rights and religious freedom. The journalist writing on religious freedom cannot set aside and be separate from global consciousness and sensitivity, regarding their main purpose to protect the dignity of every faith, looking beyond the behavior of extremist individuals and groups.

Every journalist must always keep in mind that criminal acts have nothing to do with faith and religion. These are contrary to human conscience, whatever the race, language, nationality or faith. What we do know is, that criminal events must not lead to religious conflicts. Reckless actions of immoral people and extremists should not push the entire populations to religious hatred. Any form of extremism is always wrong, dangerous and utterly inappropriate in a civil and social community.

It is necessary to declare loud and clear: "Those who perpetrate criminal acts in the name of their religion or in the name of God cannot be considered religious and must be labeled simply as criminals." Every true religion supremely values respect, balance, dignity, brotherhood and love. Public opinion needs to fully understand this concept in order to avoid conflicts and hatred between peoples and religions. All faiths have their foundation on a universal moral standard, based on the above-mentioned supreme values.

In this sense, every journalist must be a pioneer of human rights and religious liberty.

Back to list