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New Zealand media agree to Christchurch trial coverage protocols

By
Darryl Coote

May 1 (UPI) -- As the next court appearance for the man accused of killing 50 people during a terrorist attack on Christchurch mosque approaches, major New Zealand media organizations agreed to restrict reporting of the trail to prevent the promotion of white supremacist ideology.

Australian Brenton Harrison Tarrant, 28, is due back in court June 14 where he will face 50 counts of murder and 39 counts of attempted murder in connection to the shootings at two mosques in Christchurch on March 15.

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The media organizations Stuff, NZME, RNZ, TVNZ and MediaWorks agreed to "comprehensively and responsibly" cover the trial while being conscientious that "the accused may attempt to use the trial as a platform to amplify white supremacist and/or terrorist views or ideology," the statement said.

The organizations agreed to assign only senior journalists to the court case, limit reporting of statements that "actively champion" white supremacist or terrorist ideology, not quote the content of the accused's manifesto and not publish messages, imagery, symbols or signals made by the accused or associates that promote white supremacist or terrorist ideology.

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The protocols are subject to change at any time, if agreed to by all parities, and "shall continue in force indefinitely," the statement said.

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New Zealand's state broadcaster RNZ Chief Executive and Editor-in-Chief Paul Thompson said he thought it was an important move to show the world the organizations were going to be responsible and rigorous with their trial coverage, the Guardian reported.

"We needed to signal to that we would not become a platform for hate speech, for spreading hateful ideology or being a pawn in anyone's game," he said.

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Stuff Editorial Director Mark Stevens said that the media will play an important role as the public's surrogate in the trial.

"It's important not just that justice is done, but that it's seen to be done," he said.

The announcement of the agreement follows New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern saying that she would meet with French leaders to work on an agreement between governments and social media companies to fight extremist content online.

In the wake of the attack, Ardern said she would never utter the accused's name and encourage others to do that same as notoriety may have been one of his motivations.

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