BY CHRISTINA WHITE
POPE John Paul II has told the world's media they have a grave responsibility to promote peace.
In his annual message for World Communications Day, the Pope said the media could be a "courageous" force for truth, but also an agent of "propaganda and misinformation", The Pope's message was published last week on the feast of St Francis de Sales, patron saint of journalists, and is entitled The Communications Media at the Service of Authentic Peace in the Light of Pacem in Terris, a reference to Pope John XXIII's 1963 encyclical.
The encyclical, published at the height of the Cold War, named truth, justice. charity and freedom as the pillars of a peaceful society. Forty years on peace, justice, and social stability were still lacking in many parts of the world, the Pope said.
He explained: "Terrorism, conflict in the Middle East and other regions, threats and counter-threats, injustice, exploitation, and assaults upon the dignity and sanctity of human life, both before and after birth, are dismaying realities of our times."
The Pope said the power of the media to shape human relationships and influence political and social life, both for good and for ill, had increased over past decades.
He said the media had a duty not to set one group against another whether it be in the name of class conflict. exaggerated nationalism. racial supremacy or ethnic cleansing. Setting people against each other in the name of religion was a "particularly serious failure", he said.
"The media serve freedom by serving truth: they obstruct freedom to the extent that they depart from what is true by disseminating falsehoods or creating a climate of unsound emotional reaction to events."
He called for men and women in the media to live up to the challenge of their calling: service of the universal common good. "Their personal fulfilment and the peace and happiness of the world depend greatly on this," he said.
World Communications Day is observed on June 1.