XV. Church and mass media

XV. 1. The mass media play an ever-increasing role in the contemporary world. The Church respects the work of journalists called to provide the public at large with information about the world developments, helping people to orient themselves in today’s complex reality. It is important to remember at the same time that the information of the spectator, listener and reader should be based not only on the firm commitment to the truth, but also concern for the moral state of the individual and society. This involves the interpretation of positive ideals as well as the struggle with the spreading of evil, sin and vice. The propaganda of violence, enmity and hatred and ethnic, social and religious discord and the sinful exploitation of human instincts, including for commercial purposes, are inadmissible. The mass media, which have an enormous influence on the audience, bear a great responsibility for the education of people, especially the younger generation. Journalists and mass media executives should never forget about this responsibility.

XV. 2. The educational, tutorial and social and peacemaking mission of the Church compels her to maintain co-operation with the secular mass media capable of bringing her message to various sections of society. St. Peter calls Christians: “Be ready always to give an answer to every man that asketh you a reason of the hope that is in you with meekness and fear” (1 Pet. 3:15). Any clergyman or lay person is called be duly attentive to contacts with the secular mass media with the view of carrying out their pastoral and educational work and awakening the interest of secular society in various aspects of church life and Christian culture. In doing so, it is necessary to show wisdom, responsibility and prudence with regard to the stand of a particular mass medium on faith and the Church, its moral orientation and relationships with the church authorities. The Orthodox laity may be employed by the mass media and in their work they are called to be preachers and implementers of Christian moral ideals. Journalists who publish materials corrupting human souls should be subjected to canonical interdictions if they belong to the Orthodox Church.

The Church has her own media means, blessed by the church authorities, within each of the specific mass media types (printing, radio-electronic, computer). She is present there either through official institutions or private initiatives of the clergy and laity. At the same time, the Church interacts with the secular mass media through her institutions and empowered representatives. This interaction is carried out both through creating special forms of church presence in the secular mass media, such as special supplements to newspapers and magazines, special page, TV and radio series and rubrics, and participating in various forms of public dialogues and debates. The Church also gives consultative assistance to journalists, distributes reports prepared specially for them, provides them reference materials as well as audio and video aids, such as films, recordings and reproductions.

The co-operation of the Church and the mass media presupposes mutual responsibility. The information given to a journalist to be conveyed to an audience should be reliable. Opinions of the clergy or other representatives of the Church, reported through the mass media, should conform to her teaching and stand on public issues. If a purely private opinion is expressed, it should be clearly stated both by the person who speaks through the mass media and those responsible for communicating it. The co-operation of clergy and church institutions with the mass media should be carried out under the guidance of the church authorities if the coverage concerns church-wide activities and the guidance of the diocesan authorities in reporting the life of a diocese on the regional level.

XV. 3. As the Church and the mass media develop their relations, complications and even serious conflicts may arise. Problems may arise, in particular, because of inaccurate or distorted information about church life, putting her in an inappropriate context, confusing the personal stand of a reporter or a person cited with the stand of the whole Church. Relationships between the Church and the mass media are often darkened also through the fault of clergy and laity themselves, for instance, when they refuse without justification to give journalists access to information or react oversensitively to correct and proper criticism. Such problems should be resolved in the spirit of peaceful dialogue with the aim to remove misunderstandings and to continue co-operation.

At the same time, more profound and principled conflicts have been seen to emerge in relations between the Church and the secular mass media. This happens whenever the name of God is blasphemed, other blasphemies are pronounced, the information about church life is systematically distorted consciously and the Church and her servants are deliberately slandered. In case of such conflicts, the supreme church authorities (with regard to the national mass media) or the diocesan bishop (with regard to the regional and local mass media) after issuing an appropriate warning and at least one attempt to enter into negotiations, may take the following steps: to rupture relations with the mass medium or journalist concerned; to call upon the faithful to boycott the given mass medium; to apply to the governmental bodies help settle the conflict; to subject those guilty of sinful actions to canonical prohibitions if they are Orthodox Christians. The above-mentioned actions should be documented and made known to the flock and society as a whole.

Continue on to XVI. International Relations; Problems of Globalization and Secularism from The Orthodox Church and Society