RMG – “Shaping Tomorrow”, always being ethical in communication

by Fr. Sebastian Fernando

While the technology and tools of communication always require constant updating, there is something that remains unchanging: these are the ethical principles to be adopted in the service of communication. “Shaping Tomorrow”, the Communication 2024 Conference scheduled to take place from 1 to 7 August 2024 at the facilities of the Pontifical Salesian University (UPS) in Rome, cannot, as a Salesian event, fail to include within it a specific focus on the ethics of communication.

There are many ethical systems in the world, with the result that there are no ‘universal ethical principles’ clearly defined and accepted by all people in the world. The same applies to the ethical principles of human communication. However, there is agreement on some basic ethical principles that also operate in the world of social communication. SHAPING TOMORROW of salesian communication is to be guided by Christian ethics in communication activities and to respect generally accepted ethical principles. Here are some of them:

  • The principle of humanism (human dignity) – every person has value and must be treated with dignity and respect.
  • The principle of justice – all people must be treated according to the principles of equality and fairness.
  • Principle of honesty and truth – all actions must be honest and characterised by truth.
  • Principle of doing no harm – avoid activities that cause harm to other people.
  • Principle of autonomy – respect the rights of people to make free choices and direct their own lives.
  • Principle of respect for otherness and privacy – an individual must respect cultural, religious, racial or worldview differences.
  • Principle of general good – pursue the general good of the human community.
  • Principle of beneficence (subsidiarity) – everyone is expected to act for the good of others, to help those in need and to contribute to the general good of society.
  • Principle of reciprocity – people must act towards others as they would want others to act towards them (the so-called Golden Rule).
  • Principle of responsibility – people are responsible for their decisions and the consequences of their actions.
  • Principle of integrity – people must act according to their moral convictions and adhere to their values.

Ethics is a set of moral principles that condition a person’s choices. Similarly, in a social communication environment, ethics indicates the principles and criteria for choosing good and bad behaviour when communicating with others. It also specifies the elements that have a significant impact on responsible communication. We can find many of these ethical principles in the documents of the Catholic Church.

In the document Ethics in Communications from 2000, we read:

“In all three areas-message, process, structural and systemic issues-the fundamental ethical principle is this: The human person and the human community are the end and measure of the use of the media of social communication; communication should be by persons to persons for the integral development of persons” (nr 21).

And in another place:

‘For even though acts of communicating often do have unintended consequences, nevertheless people choose whether to use the media for good or evil ends, in a good or evil way’ (nr 1).

These basic ethical principles, which place the person and his dignity at the centre, give hope for SHAPING TOMORROW of communication in the Salesian Family, in accordance with the doctrine of the Catholic Church, in the spirit of ethics with a personalist foundation. Communication from a personalist perspective places great emphasis on respect for the human person, his dignity and freedom. It emphasises the value of the human person, his or her integrity, as well as demonstrating the great importance of community and cooperation. Personalism emphasises the freedom of choice of each person and the responsibility for his or her actions. The personalist norm described by John Paul II indicates the primacy of the person over technology. According to this principle, the person must always be treated as an end, never as a means.

Accordingly, any action in the field of social communication must also aim at the good of the person and his dignity, which are of paramount importance. SHAPING TOMORROW is concerned with cultivating communication according to a personalistic norm and with a sound Christian anthropology and ethics.

“We invite you to the Communication Conference to be held from 1 to 7 August 2024, in Rome” the Sector for Social Communication, which is promoting the event concludes.

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The society of St. Francis de Sales or Salesians of Don Bosco (SDB), is a religious Congregation founded by St. John Bosco in 1859 in Turin, Italy for the purpose of helping, educating and training poor boys. To date, services of the Salesians have spread to 131 countries in the world. In Sri Lanka, the very first Don Bosco Centre was established in 1956 at Negombo. The Salesians of Don Bosco have, to date established 18 centres in different parts of the country. 


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