Catholic Communicators, Clergy in Malawi Cautioned against “spreading fake news, hearsays”

Members of the Episcopal Conference of Malawi (ECM). Credit: Courtesy Photo

Ahead of the celebration of World Communications Day (WCD) in Malawi, Catholic communicators, members of the Clergy, women and men Religious in the Southeastern African have been cautioned against “spreading fake news and hearsays.”

In a message issued Wednesday, August 25 ahead of the Sunday, August 29 celebration, members of the Episcopal Conference of Malawi (ECM) invite Catholic communicators “to learn truthful communication, which was part of those first moving encounters of Jesus with the disciples and is also the method for all authentic human communication.” 

“The Catholic Bishops are therefore urging all Catholics, those in the communication industry or not, including the Clergy and the religious, to refrain from spreading fake news and hearsays,” ECM members say. 

They continue, “Let us have passion for the truth as we serve humankind with compassion. Above all, we are being called to be evangelizers through our various communication platforms.”

In the message signed by ECM Chairman for Social Communications and Research Commission, Bishop Montfort Stima, the Catholic Church leaders note that “in order to tell the truth of life that becomes history, we must be present at the situation and see for ourselves, listen to people's stories and confront the reality.”


In Malawi, the celebration of World Communication Sunday takes place on the last Sunday of July every year. This year, it was postponed to the last Sunday of August as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Established in 1967 by Pope Paul VI, this year’s 55th WCD event was marked in Churches around the world on the Sunday before Pentecost under the theme, "Come and See" (Jn 1:46).

In their August 25 message, Catholic Bishops in Malawi say, “The tendency of sitting behind the computers and write stories without meeting people face to face so that facts are reported has replaced original investigative reporting in newspapers, radio and web news casts.”

Making reference to Pope Francis’ message for the 55th WCD, the Bishops note that “This approach is less and less capable of grasping the truth of things and the concrete lives of people, much less the more serious social phenomena or positive movements at the grass roots level.”

“The crisis of the publishing industry risks leading to a reportage created in newsrooms, in front of personal or company computers and on social networks, without ever hitting the streets, meeting people face-to-face to research stories or to verify certain situations first hand,” ECM members reiterate the message of the Holy Father.

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“Journalism therefore, must be considered as a calling and a mission that calls for the willingness to reach out in the peripherals where no one goes to tell people's stories,” the Catholic Bishops add.

They continue, “We need this courage and commitment in our journalists, camera operators, editors and directors in the Church and the country.” 

Members of ECM go on to express appreciation to devoted Catholic communicators saying, “Thanks to those who risk their lives in doing their work as it is through them that we know some malpractices happening in some parts of Malawi. We thank those journalists doing their best to find out more on the situations of our isolation centers despite hindrances”

In this time of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Bishops make reference to the theme of WCD saying, the “communication industry is invited more to come and see as there are many challenges people are facing.”

“The pandemic has exacerbated inequalities in our healthcare systems and exposed inefficiencies in the care of the sick. The elderly, weak and vulnerable people are not always granted access to care or in an equitable manner,” they add.


According to the Catholic Bishops in Malawi, “The Internet, with its countless social media expressions, has increased the capacity for reporting and sharing, with many more eyes on the world and a constant flood of images and testimonies Digital technology offers us the possibility of timely first-hand information that is often quite useful.”

“It (internet) is a powerful tool, which demands that all of us be responsible as users and consumers. Potentially, we can all become witnesses to events that otherwise would be overlooked by the traditional media, offer a contribution to society and highlight more stories, including positive ones,” the Bishops in Malawi say in their August 25 message.

“Misinformation present on social media has become worrisome and overwhelming. People post fake news and distorted images to hurt others forgetting they are responsible for the communication they make,” ECM members say.

They advocate for person-to-person encounters saying, “In communications, nothing can ever completely replace encountering people where and as they are. Some things can only be learned through first-hand experience.”

“We do not communicate merely with words, but with our eyes, the tone of our voice and our gestures,” the Catholic Bishops note, and add, “The word is effective only if it is 'seen', only if it engages us in experience, in dialogue, For this reason, the invitation to ‘come and see’ was, and continues to be essential.”

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Jude Atemanke is a Cameroonian journalist with a passion for Catholic Church communication. He holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Journalism and Mass Communication from the University of Buea in Cameroon. Currently, Jude serves as a journalist for ACI Africa.