Information based on scientific facts is a human right, Pope Francis said Friday, urging Catholic journalists to help people who were misled by false reports about the coronavirus and vaccines.
“To be properly informed, to be helped to understand situations based on scientific data and not fake news, is a human right,” the pope told members of the International Catholic Media Consortium on COVID-19 Vaccines.
An “infodemic” was spreading, the pope said, calling it “a distortion of reality based on fear, falsified or invented news.”
Journalists and scientists, he added, should treat those who believe in false information with respect and not place them in “ghettos.” Instead, they should try to build bridges to those who need to hear scientific truths.
The pope cited a 1972 message by Pope Paul VI about the sway that the news media had over people’s behaviors and choices, and lauded those who could properly place individual facts in a broader picture by explaining the causes and circumstances of a given situation.
He praised the Catholic consortium of media organizations, fact-checking websites and scientists for combating inaccurate information on vaccines, particularly online.
The pope has been vocal about the importance of vaccines. Last year, he participated in a global ad campaign and called getting vaccinated an “act of love.”
He has also periodically reiterated the importance of the equitable distribution of vaccines around the globe, lamenting the scarcity of health care resources in poor countries.
Speaking to diplomats earlier this month, Francis stressed the importance of “the effort to immunize the general population as much as possible.” He also lamented the “strong ideological divides” facing the world.
“Frequently people let themselves be influenced by the ideology of the moment, often bolstered by baseless information or poorly documented facts,” he told the diplomats.
This article originally appeared in The New York Times.