Terror, time, and trust

We need to cut the media some slack in a fast-developing situation like Friday’s terrorist attack in Auckland. Such stories develop multiple strands of enquiry at lightning speed.

As news of the supermarket knife attack developed, I wondered what effect the Covid Level 4 lockdown had on the ability of the surveillance team (who had tracked the terrorist since he was released on bail in July) to stay in close proximity. My query went unanswered for 36 hours but eventually we were told that it had forced the team to stay outside the check-in as he wandered the aisles, seemingly on an innocent shopping expedition until he picked up a knife that was on sale.

The circumstances surrounding his release from custody and the Crown’s inability to keep him off the street; the reason for his name suppression by the court and its decision on Friday night to extend it for 24 hours; the tortuous passage of legislation to close a glaring gap in our anti-terrorism laws; even the timeframe from the beginning of the attack to his fatal shooting by Police. All these were questions that were answered only over time – and some questions remain as I write this. Continue reading “Terror, time, and trust”

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”

New guidelines on terrorism: I hope we will not need them


Last week the Broadcasting Standards Authority released guidance to broadcasters which, I sincerely hope, gathers digital dust in an unopened computer folder.

The world will be a better place if no New Zealand broadcaster has to ever access the file to ensure local coverage is in line with the detailed guidelines it contains.

The guidelines are not faulty. Nor is the BSA operating outside its remit. The reason  I hope they are never needed is because they cover acts of terrorism and violent extremism. Continue reading “New guidelines on terrorism: I hope we will not need them”