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The Pope on the Press

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Pope Francis speaks during his general audience in St. Peter's Square at the Vatican April 18. (CNS photo/Paul Haring) See POPE-AUDIENCE-NAME April 18, 2018.

“FREEDOM OF the press and of expression is an important indicator of the state of a country’s health. Let’s not forget that one of the first things dictatorships do is remove freedom of the press or mask it, not leaving it free.”

Thus, spake Pope Francis before the Foreign Press Association in Italy on Saturday, even as he urged journalists to shun fake news, to be “on the side” of the persecuted.

“I listened in pain to the statistics about your colleagues killed while carrying out their work with courage and dedication in so many countries to report on what is happening in wars and other dramatic situations in which so many of our brothers and sisters in the world live,” said the Pope.

Though addressed universally, Francis’s words have struck greater resonance in our country today, faced as we are not so much with an emergent, but already creeping, dictatorship and its concomitant acts of demonizing media, of criminalizing dissent, of suppressing free expression, of killing journalists.

“We need journalists who are on the side of victims, on the side of those who are persecuted, on the side of who is excluded, cast aside, discriminated against,” furthered the Pope, and directly referenced the Rohingya in Myanmar and the Yazidis in Syria. “They have been forgotten and they continue to suffer.”

The Lumads and other indigenous peoples of the Philippines, themselves refugees in their homeland, readily come to mind there.

And we remember too –

It has been 9 years and 6 months since the Ampatuan Massacre. Still, No Justice. No end to the weeping. No stopping to the raging.

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