Eamon Martin warns against 'fake news' on patron saint of journalists' feast day

Eamon Martin.
Eamon Martin.

The Archbishop of Armagh. Eamon Martin, has warned of the dangers of 'fake news' on the feast of Saint Francis de Sales, the Catholic patron of journalists.

Archbishop Martin said: "All of us need to ask ourselves 'what is "fake news"?'. This is a very important question for each of us to reflect on.

"Pope Francis tells us 'fake news' is 'false but believable news' that is sensational and often goes viral. It is the 'spreading of disinformation online or in the traditional media' 'based on non-existent or distorted data meant to deceive and manipulate the reader'.

"It seeks to 'advance specific goals, influence political decisions, and serve economic interests'."

The Derry pastor suggested people needed to work out how to defend themselves from bogus narratives.

He said today's journalists could learn from the example of St. Francis de Sales.

"This great saint preferred to confront the hostility of his time with the example of holiness and love. If he were around today, I expect his advice to all those in the media would be: 'teach and proclaim the truth with love'.

"Pope Francis tells us we can 'rediscover the truth when we experience it within ourselves in the loyalty and trustworthiness of the One who loves us' and we can recognise the truth of statements from their fruits - whether they provoke arguments and cause division or promote informed mature dialogue and discussion with friends, family, colleagues and loved ones.

"He tells us: 'Informing others means forming others; it means touching peoples’ lives'.

"He describes the work of journalists as not just a job but a mission. He is inviting everyone to promote a 'journalism of peace' - journalism that is truthful, and opposed to falsehoods, rhetorical slogans, and sensational headlines.

"He says journalists are the 'protectors of news' with a responsibility to expose the truth at all times and hold people to account."