Sunday, December 15, 2019

Responsible For The Words We Use

"The media must be used to build up and sustain the human community in its different sectors: economic, political, cultural, educational and religious. The information provided by the media is at the service of the common good. Society has a right to information based on truth, freedom, justice, and solidarity”(Compendium of the Social Gospel #415). This quote begins an article in the Catholic News Weekly on the media and information by a priest concerned with human rights issues.

If you can't say something nice don't say anything is what many of us heard as children; much can be said for the intention behind these words, for we know words can both heal and kill. More so in this digital world where malicious comments and irresponsible media reports create a vicious cycle of hurts and hostility.

How many are the times when what was said in a private conversation is posted on SNS for the whole world, without any dialog with the person for clarification before posting? Often distorted content of what was said could have been made clear with dialogue but instead used to tarnish the reputation of another.

Recently we had the death of an entertainer right after the 'International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women'. Accepting the fact that our perception of entertainers is not always healthy: they deserve a private life like everybody else.  They also make mistakes not compliant with their reputation and social responsibility.

But is it right for them to suffer from unsubstantiated accusations and malicious mockery? Comments that tell one to die is a type of violence but also reflects on our public misconceptions. Why can't we treat them as friends and neighbors? Is it too much for us to want to protect them? Should it not be seen as a social murder with our indifference. Sadly in our society, their talents are only commodities.

We do have a "Suicide Report Recommendation Criteria" set by the Ministry of Health and Welfare and the Korean Journalists Association. Nevertheless, some irresponsible media introduce gossip about the daily lives of entertainers with suggestive articles. This leads to secondary damage, to the shocked families, not mourning their death but rather producing articles for profit.

False, uncritical criticisms, emotional attacks,  that are different from the facts leave lifelong injuries. But the malicious reports in the press and society that sees it without criticism are all linked together. Malicious reports beget evil, evil creates hurt and disgust. It's a sadistic cycle— a lack of ethical attitudes and personal respect.

In recent years, there has been a growing movement to amend laws on malicious reports and harmful internet comments. These problems have always existed. But the reality is the number of views and advertising-income is good for business.

What are the values we will choose to live by? Do you consider entertainers our neighbors and like all others need to love and forgive? Do we speak, judge and act based on the teachings of faith? A word that flows out of my mouth can remain in the heart of another forever. Truly a word kills or saves a person. At this moment, many words come and go through SNS. Our healthy perception, a word of responsiveness, will help eradicate and bring peace to the terrible situation that prevails in society.

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