Sentencing the Christchurch mosque terrorist

In the latter part of last year the New Zealand Law Journal published a four-part paper on ground-breaking processes introduced for the sentencing of the Christchurch mosque gunman in 2020.

The paper, which I co-authored with Dr Denis Muller of Melbourne University, found that high levels of institutional trust between New Zealand media organisations and the justice system were instrumental in denying the terrorist any opportunity to use the proceedings as a soapbox for white supremacist beliefs.

The paper has been subject to a six-month copyright stand-down period required by the New Zealand Law Journal’s publisher. That restriction no longer applies to Part 1 and you can access it below. The remaining parts will be posted at the beginning of March, April and May.

Justice, the media, and the Christchurch mosque terrorist Part 1

Hard call (but the right call) on hate speech

There has been understandable anger and frustration at the announcement that harm provisions in the Human Rights Act will only be extended to religious communities. However, New Zealand will be a better place if the aggrieved can be a little more patient.

Yes, the LGBT+ community, women, the disabled and other ‘targets’ have already waited a long time for the protection that is their fundamental right. I understand why they have launched a petition. Their hopes of legislative change had been boosted by recommendations of the Royal Commission on the Christchurch Mosque Attacks related to social cohesion, and by the Department of Internal Affairs’ Content Regulatory Review.

Those hopes were dimmed by Justice Minister Kiri Allen’s announcement, but not dashed. She also announced that the Law Commission has been asked to undertake “an independent and thorough first principles review of legal responses to hate-motivated offending, and of speech that expresses hostility towards, or contempt of, people who share a common characteristic” (the italics are mine).

One might question why the Law Commission is to do another review when the Department of Internal Affairs review is already canvassing overseas regulation of harmful material. I think that, while there will be overlap, the Law Commission will concentrate on the role of the legal system in achieving a balance of rights: Toleration versus free speech. Continue reading “Hard call (but the right call) on hate speech”

Multiple media reviews and the lefthand-righthand rule

When I look at my hands, I’m sure the left one knows what the right is doing. I hope the same can be said of the various New Zealand Government enquiries into a broad range of issues that impact on the media.

Each has its own course and involves different government agencies, with a total of four ministers at the helm.

Each enquiry is working diligently to address areas that have long needed overhaul. The Ministry of Justice’s proposed changes to laws relating to hate speech and discrimination arose out of the Christchurch Mosque attacks but the need predated those atrocities. The Department of Internal Affairs’ review of content regulation had a similar genesis and it, too, has long needed revision (not least over the issue of multiple mainstream media regulators). And work has been progressing on a new public service media entity and, separately, the reshaping of Māori media. Continue reading “Multiple media reviews and the lefthand-righthand rule”

Tragic improvements to terrorism protocols

It is a tragic fact that new media protocols for dealing with acts of terrorism in New Zealand have benefitted from experience.

The protocols were negotiated by the Media Freedom Committee and officials led by the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet. They are an updated version of protocols first negotiated in 2004 and implemented the following year.

The updated version is clearly informed by the events in Christchurch in 2019. The preamble begins by saying that the mosque attacks “removed any doubt that New Zealand’s remoteness provided us with immunity from terrorism”.

That is hardly surprising, of course, but perceptions of terrorism have long been coloured by its most recent manifestations. Continue reading “Tragic improvements to terrorism protocols”