(Vatican Radio) The Holy See’s representative to the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) on Thursday said freedom of the media requires ‘great responsibility’.
Msgr. Janusz S. Urbańczyk told the OSCE that it is “important to stress that the great role of the media is accompanied by great responsibility. Because, with every right – such as freedom of expression – there follows obligations.”
His address came after the presentation of a report by the OSCE representative on freedom of the media.
Msgr. Urbańczyk cited Pope Francis’ address to journalists in September 2016: “In life not everything is black or white. Even in journalism, you have to know how to discern the shades of grey of the events that you are called to cover… This is the job – we could also say the mission, difficult and at the same time necessary – of a journalist: to get as close as possible to the truth of the facts and never to say or to write anything which, in conscience, is known to be untrue”.
Below please find Msgr. Urbańczyk’s full address:
I join previous speakers in thanking Ms. Dunja Mijatović for her final and, as always, insightful report to the Permanent Council concerning the activities of the Office of the OSCE Representative on Freedom of the Media.
My Delegation shares in a particular way the concern of the RFoM about freedom of expression, free media and free information. At the same time, the Holy See is convinced, as Pope Francis stressed during the audience for the Italian National Council of Journalists on 22 September 2016, that “the journalist has a role of great importance and, at the same time, a role of great responsibility. In some way you [journalists] write the first draft of history, building the agenda of the news and also introducing people to the interpretation of events” (1).
It is, in this regard, important to stress that the great role of the media is accompanied by great responsibility. Because, with every right – such as freedom of expression – there follows obligations. In fact, professional standards and ethics among journalists do not inhibit or weaken the media profession, but rather enables it to carry out its great responsibility, its important service for the good of all, something the RFoM has drawn attention to during her term.
In the abovementioned meeting with journalists His Holiness further underlined that: “In life not everything is black or white. Even in journalism, you have to know how to discern the shades of grey of the events that you are called to cover. Political debates, and even many situations of conflict, are rarely the result of distinctly clear dynamics, where it can be recognized in a definite and unambiguous way who is wrong and who is right. In the end, confrontation and at times conflict, derive precisely from this difficulty of reaching a synthesis among differing positions. This is the job– we could also say the mission, difficult and at the same time (1) necessary – of a journalist: to get as close as possible to the truth of the facts and never to say or to write anything which, in conscience, is known to be untrue”. (2)
Moreover, touching upon the important mission of journalists – to serve as an instrument of reconciliation and of encounter – the Pope stressed: “I hope that journalism may be increasingly and everywhere an instrument of construction, a builder of the common good, an accelerator for processes of reconciliation; may it overcome the temptation to foster clashes with a language that blows on the embers of division; may it instead favour a culture of encounter.” (3)
Since this is the final report that Ms. Mijatović presents to the Permanent Council in her capacity as OSCE Representative on Freedom of the Media, the Holy See takes the opportunity to recognise the commitment and accomplishments she brought to the OSCE and to the participating States, not only to freedom of the media in general, but to journalists and their safety in particular. I also, on behalf of my Delegation, wish to thank you, Ms. Mijatović, for the wide-ranging knowledge, professionalism and hard work that have characterized your seven years of service to this Organization , and I wish you the very best in your future endeavours.
Furthermore, I would like to take this opportunity to convey the Holy See’s gratitude to the Austrian Chairmanship, for its ongoing efforts to secure the appointment of a new Representative on Freedom of the Media as well as to express its hope that such an appointment may be forthcoming as soon as possible, and that the future Representative carry out the Office’s important mission to the benefit of all the participating States.
Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
 His Holiness Pope Francis, Address to the National Council of the Order of Journalists, 22 September 2016.