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Agencies
May 19, 2019

Freedom of press indicator of a state’s health: Pope

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A
Agencies
May 19, 2019

VATICAN CITY: Pope Francis paid tribute to journalists killed on duty, saying media freedom is the key indicator of a country’s health.

In an address to the Foreign Press Association in Italy on Saturday, he urged journalists to shun fake news and continue reporting on the plight of people who no longer make headlines but are still suffering, specifically mentioning the Rohingya and Yazidi. “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,” he said.

Francis had just heard the association’s president, Patricia Thomas of Associated Press Television, talk about journalists killed, imprisoned, wounded or threatened in their line of work. She mentioned Lyra Mckee, who was shot dead while covering a riot in Northern Ireland, Maltese journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia, who died in a car bomb in 2017, and Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi, killed in Istanbul last year.

“Freedom of the press and of expression is an important indicator of the state of a country’s health,” the pope said. “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.” Francis did not mention any countries in his address to about 400 members of the foreign media and their families. “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,” he said.

In an apparent reference to the media’s role in investigating the Roman Catholic Church’s sexual abuse crisis, Francis said: “The Church holds you in esteem, also when you put your finger in a wound, even if the wound is in the Church community.” Francis urged the media to not lose interest in tragedies even when they no longer make headlines. “Who is talking about the Rohingya today? Who is talking about the Yazidis today? They have been forgotten and they continue to suffer,” he said.

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