Access to truthful information is fundamental in today’s world. The internet plays a vital role in the midst of the globalized society in which we live. Therefore, much of the disinformation war with regard to the present conflict in Ukraine is being waged in the area of communication and information. In recent days we have seen this very clearly as Russia, through unjust laws, has silenced the voice of journalists and has prohibited (through threat of imprisonment) the dissemination of any information other than that of the official government. This has led to the closing of any media outlet that disagrees with the vision that the Putin government is giving to its citizens. This procedure is very common when conflicts and wars occur.
Unfortunately, this is not the only measure that the Russian government is taking to let the Russian population know “the truth” of what is happening in the world. Access to various social networks was closed or limited last week: Twitter, Facebook, YouTube or Instagram are practically inaccessible to the people of Russian. The reasons are more than obvious: minimizing access to truthful information about what is happening is a powerful way to model consciences and public opinion.
Thus, the lack of access to information becomes one more tool of the “non-democracy” that prevails in Russia. It is not the only country that uses this powerful weapon of disinformation: similar situations are experienced in China, North Korea, Cuba, Venezuela and Iran (none of them an example of democratic freedom).
Last weekend, Russia went one step further to ensure this anomalous situation: Moscow is ready to disconnect the country from the Global Internet Network. Although it officially rules out applying it in a generalized way, the sovereign internet project has been operating since yesterday with the Government’s websites. RuNet [name of the Russian network] would allow the internet to continue operating in the country, although redirecting all data traffic to national servers controlled by state authorities (information obtained from the Spanish newspaper El País). For practical purposes, this disconnection will make it impossible to access any information that has not been “filtered” by the Russian government. The implications of that decision, however, go even further: for example, creating such a private network will cause problems for companies doing business outside the country.
In short, the large-scale “information blackout” that is being experienced in Russia is nothing more than one more very effective way that the Russian government has implemented to “cover its shame” so that the people do not become aware of the truth.
Jesus said: The truth will set you free (cf. John 8,31-38). Those words were spoken in a context certainly different but equally applicable to the current reality. As Vincentians, it is also our duty to proclaim the truth and free the oppressed from their chains. It is our duty to assist them with their spiritual needs and also with their material needs (and among the latter, it cannot be forgotten that men and women will not be authentically free unless they have access to the truth.
So then, if there are any among us who think they’re in the Mission to evangelize poor people but not to alleviate their sufferings, to take care of their spiritual needs but not their temporal ones, I reply that we have to help them and have them assisted in every way, by us and by others, if we want to hear those pleasing words of the Sovereign Judge of the living and the dead, “Come, beloved of my Father; possess the kingdom that has been prepared for you, because I was hungry and you gave me to eat; I was naked and you clothed me; sick and you assisted me.” To do that is to preach the Gospel by words and by works, and that’s the most perfect way (Saint Vincent de Paul, CCD:XII:77-78).
Vincentians cannot remain silent in the face of this loss of freedom that not only the Ukrainian people experience, but also the Russian people. Like so many other peoples, we see that in Russia only the interest of the rulers and oligarchs prevails. Evangelical denunciation is also our mission. Let us not have to regret that we did not take a position on such a significant and important issue.
Communications Commission of the Vincentian Family