In the recent election for mayor of Seoul almost 49 percent voted, a large number compared to results from previous elections, but the priest-chairman of the peace and justice committee of the diocese, writing in the Catholic Times, would like to know why more are not voting. The answer, he says, apart from lack of interest and the distaste for the whole process, can be found in the Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church.
From the Compendium: "The overcoming of cultural, juridical and social obstacles that often constitutes real barriers to the shared participation of citizens in the destiny of their communities calls for work in the areas of information and education. In this regard, all those attitudes that encourage in citizens an inadequate or incorrect practice of participation or that cause widespread disaffection with everything connected with the sphere of social and political life are a source of concern and deserve careful consideration." (191)
"Among the obstacles that hinder the full exercise of the right to objectivity in information, special attention must be given to the phenomenon of the news media being controlled by just a few people or groups. This has dangerous effects for the entire democratic system when this phenomenon is accompanied by ever closer ties between governmental activity and the financial and information establishments." (414)
The priest-chairman says we have to examine how objective, ethical and honest is the information we receive from the mass media, and that includes the religious media. Without objective, honest information we can't make the right decisions and the common good is harmed.
He reminds us of the time under the Japanese occupation when we were flooded with all kinds of propaganda, and again, not more than a few decades ago, when a past government, using dubious information, swayed public opinion. Can any of us affirm, he asks, that even today we are not being swayed with misinformation?
How we face the crucial issues of life now and in the future will affect our dignity and the common good. This will not be easy. The issues are often too technical and complicated for us always to know the facts, and even to know whether the issues themselves are being honestly reported. Not infrequently the mass media is controlled by small groups that influence the way news is reported. Lack of honest news coverage may also occur when the media, apart from defending vested interests, is incapable of presenting objective, honest news, having lost touch with the perennial truths of life.
We are reduced, he maintains, to being passive, unquestioning consumers of the information we receive. And as passive consumers, we are opening the way for a few people and groups to take control and manipulate the politics, the finances, and the media of the country. This situation harms not only the efficient operation of our democratic institutions but works against human dignity and the common good.