Reporting guidelines devised and signed by five major news organisations
‘New Zealand media organisations have taken the unprecedented step of agreeing to limit their reporting of the trial of the man accused of the Christchurch mosque massacre in an attempt to contain the dissemination of his white supremacist beliefs.
On 15 March a shooter killed 50 people in two Christchurch mosques, the largest mass shooting in New Zealand’s modern history.
In the lead-up to the accused shooter’s next court appearance on 14 June, New Zealand’s five largest media organisations have signed a voluntary agreement committing to adhere to a strict set of protocols designed to limit the exposure of the accused killer’s ideals and beliefs.
Brenton Tarrant, an Australian, has been charged with 50 counts of murder and 39 of attempted murder. He is being held in isolation in New Zealand’s only maximum-security prison, Paremoremo, where he has laid a complaint that his detention is breaching his human rights.
A copy of the agreement, signed by the heads of RNZ, TVNZ, Mediaworks, NZME and Stuff, says they fear the accused could use his trial “as a platform to amplify white supremacist and/or terrorist views or ideology”, and preventative action needed to be taken to limit his audience and exposure.
“We are also mindful of our role as the ‘eyes and ears of the public’ in the context of court reporting,” the agreement states.
“In this instance, we acknowledge the particular importance of this function, given the many victims’ friends and families outside New Zealand who may otherwise be unable to engage in the trial process.”
The pledges in the agreement include only assigning senior journalists to cover the trial, limiting the coverage of statements that “actively champion” white supremacist or terrorist ideals, not quoting from the accused’s manifesto, and not broadcasting or publishing “imagery, symbols or signals” from the accused that reference white supremacist ideology, including hand signals such as the Nazi salute.
It is understood the agreement is the first of its kind to be signed in New Zealand and represents a bold step forward for media co-operation during a time of unprecedented upheaval and intense competition for dwindling audience numbers.