The truth is imperative

“In all the tables of laws, truth is (…) an indispensable condition for us to be able to live in peace and in harmony with others.”
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In all the tables of laws, including the ones Moses showed us or those of the reissued Ten Commandments of the Catholic Church, in all the rules that collective life advises or imposes, truth is imperative.

I reflected on this some days ago, when I went to say goodbye to a companion in this newspaper adventure and discovered, in the Parish Churchyard of Oliveira do Douro, a garden of ten olive trees, each one framing one of the ten commandments already mentioned.

In this list, the commandment that imposes truth is the eighth and is summarized in the expression “Thou shalt not bear false witness”. Other boards place it in another position, but in all of them, even in the Journalists’ Code of Ethics, truth is imperative.

In the Journalists’ Code of Ethics, it is the very first rule and says that the journalist “must report the facts with rigour and accuracy and interpret them honestly”, adding that “the facts must be proven, listening to the parties with relevant interests in the case” and that “the distinction between news and opinion must be made clear to the public eye”.

In all the tables of laws, truth is imperative and an indispensable condition if we are to live in peace and harmony with others. This rule is also present in Ulpiano’s Latin expression (150-223) that establishes the three precepts of Roman Law:“honeste vivere, alterum non laedere, suum cuique tribuere“.

Those who studied Law in Coimbra and caught Sebastião Cruz teaching Roman Law, will well remember these three Ulpian precepts (“live honestly, do not injure others, give each one what is his”), a common base to many legal buildings, including ours. Professor Sebastião Cruz required the citation, in Latin, of these principles and in the order referred to here.

In them, truth is implicit as an inalienable value of human coexistence in a desirable civilisational framework. Unfortunately, not always respected and followed, in these times that some already classify as being times of the “post-truth”, with all the bad consequences and the corresponding regression that this implies.


This article is published in o largo. under the project “Culture, Science and Technology in the Media” (Cultura, Ciência e Tecnologia na Imprensa), promoted by the Portuguese Press Association

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