50 years ago the Watergate scandal: the scourge of corruption and the lesson of journalism

Episode of “Doppio Click”, a program of Vatican Radio, dedicated to an event that has changed the history not only of American politics. An opportunity to reread, through the words of Pope Francis, reflections on some of the evils that can affect politics and on the role of information.

Amedeo Lomonaco – Vatican City

“I betrayed my friends and my country.” It is August 1977, and Richard Nixon, three years after his resignation as President of the United States, publicly admits in an interview with British journalist David Paradine Frost his responsibilities in the so-called “Watergate.”

This scandal is named after the Washington residential and office complex, which housed the Democratic Party’s campaign committee. In these offices, in 1972, some Republican party officials had searched for secret documents and placed microphones. On the night of June 17, 5 people were arrested, then charged with espionage against the election committee of Democratic candidate politician George Stanley McGovern. The trial also involved the sentencing of two more people linked to Richard Nixon’s re-election committee who were first elected president of the United States in 1968.

Nixon during the televised talk on April 29, 1974.

A special commission, recalls the Italian encyclopedia “La Treccani”, highlights the responsibilities in the case of the closest collaborators of the head of the White House. One of his consultants, lawyer John Dean, is trying to stop the leak and protect the president from involvement in the case by bribing some people with sums of money. President Nixon, who resigned on August 8, 1974, later admitted that he was aware of the affair and the attempts to avoid the impeachment procedure. The investigation was carried out by two journalists, Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein, from the Washington Post. The Watergate affair, which inspired the film “All the President’s Men,” among other things, has become synonymous with political corruption around the world. He also stressed the importance of investigative journalism.

The Watergate complex, where the attack took place on June 17, 1972.

The Watergate complex, where the attack took place on June 17, 1972.

Corruption is “dirty bread”

During his pontificate, Pope Francis stopped several times in the scourge of corruption. In the morning meditation on November 8, 2013, in the chapel of the Domus Sactae Marhae, the Pontiff emphasizes that corrupt administrators “devoted to the tangent goddess” commit a “grave sin against dignity” and give “dirty bread.” to his children .. Meeting with young people in Nairobi on November 27, 2015 during his apostolic trip to Kenya, the Pope compares corruption to sugar. “It’s like sugar: it’s sweet, we like it, it’s easy … and then what? We ended badly! May we have a bad ending! With so much easy sugar we end up diabetic and our country also becomes diabetic! ” the worst social scourge “.

The Pope: corruption is a fraud against democracy (17-11-2016)

It is the lie of seeking personal or group benefits under the guise of a service to society. It is the destruction of the social fabric under the guise of law enforcement. It is the law of the jungle disguised as apparent social rationality. It is the deception and exploitation of the weakest or least informed. It is the grossest selfishness, hidden behind an apparent generosity. Corruption is generated by the cult of money and returns to the corrupt, prisoners of that same cult. Corruption is a fraud of democracy.

Journalism is healthy when it comes to the truth

Pope Francis, during his pontificate, also stopped several times on issues related to journalism. Loving the truth, living professionally internalizing the deep meaning of work and respecting human dignity are some of the aspects that mark this profession. The Pope recalls this by addressing the National Council of the Order of Journalists on September 22, 2016. To love the truth, in particular, means for Francis “to get as close as possible to the truth of the facts and never say no. to write something you know, consciously, that is not true. “

Francesc: to love the truth is to bear witness to it (22-09 / 2016)

To love the truth means not only to affirm it, but to live the truth, to bear witness to it with one’s own work. Living and working, therefore, consistently with respect to the words used for a newspaper article or a television report. The question here is not to be or not to be a believer. The question here is whether or not to be honest with oneself and with others. Relationship is the heart of any communication. This is even more true for those who do their job in communication. And no relationship can be maintained and last over time if it is based on dishonesty. I realize that in today’s journalism – an uninterrupted flow of facts and events told 24 hours a day, 7 days a week – it’s not always easy to get to the truth, or at least get closer to it. Not everything is white or black in life. Even in journalism one must know how to discern between the shades of gray of the facts it is called upon to tell.

Good information is tied to great responsibility. The company – underlines Francesc, addressing the members of the Italian Periodical Press Union and the Italian Catholic Weekly Federation on December 16, 2017 – needs that the right to information be scrupulously respected “We must not fall into the” sins of communication “: misinformation – that is, only a part -, slander, which is sensational, or defamation, look for old-fashioned, old things, and bring them to light today: they are very serious sins that hurt to the heart of the journalist and to the people ”.

Investigative journalism, an increasingly necessary bet

What is the value of investigative journalism today? Alessandro Guarasci addressed this crucial issue to editor Nello Scavo, Avvenire’s special correspondent. Many of his inquiries from the hottest fronts. In 2017 Nello Scavo managed to break into a clandestine prison of Libyan smugglers, documenting the poor living conditions of migrants. In recent years, he has been among the journalists who have boarded ships patrolling the Mediterranean to help immigrants.

Listen to the interview with Nello Scavo

Nello Scavo emphasizes that it is increasingly necessary to do investigative journalism and somehow, thanks to the tools we currently have, it would be even simpler. But these tools are also available to manipulate information and to hinder or discredit journalistic investigations. Issues related to human trafficking, oil and dramatic events in the Mediterranean make up one of the most recent research that required more effort and never really ended. Connections have emerged between public circles, private interests and criminal organizations. Finally, for a journalist, explains Nello Scavo, it is essential to do research on the ground being in the places where things happen, as at this time in Ukraine where you have to scratch beyond the surface of the official narrative about the war. .

Episode number 104 of Double Click was created by Andrea De Angelis, Alessandro Guarasci and Amedeo Lomonaco

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