Media, the courts, and terrorism: Lessons from the Christchurch mosque attacks
Commentary: Court proceedings against the alleged perpretrator of the Christchurch mosque attacks in 2019 led to what may be ground-breaking cooperation between the judicial system and the media to balance fair trial rights and a determination to (a) avoid retraumatisation and (b) prevent the court being used as a platform for white supremacist propaganda. The case, and the willingness of media to honour these imperatives, demonstrates the centrality of publicity in acts of terrorism known as ‘propaganda of the deed’. The research outlined in this article suggests that institutional cooperation can avoid ‘giving oxygen’ to perpetrators and their causes without sacrificing journalistic integrity or a duty to bear witness in the interests of open justice. A change of plea resulted in proceedings being limited to a sentencing hearing. A lengthy trial may have tested the robustness of the measures put in place but, nonetheless, the planning processes employed in New Zealand lead to a conclusion that they could provide a basis for similar cooperation in other judicial jurisdictions, such as Australia.
Bangstad, S. (2017). Norway: A lack of reckoning? In Kellner, A.M. (ed.), Democracy and terrorism—Experiences in coping with terror attacks (pp. 37-46). Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung.
Commonwealth of Australia (2015, January). Martin Place siege: Joint Commonwealth-New South Wales review. Canberra.
de Graaf, B. (2011). Terrorists on trial: A performative perspective. International Centre for Counter-Terrorism, The Hague (Expert Meeting Paper). DOI: https://doi.org/10.19165/2011.1.04
Ellis, G., & Muller, D. (2019). The proximity filter: The effect of distance on media coverage of the Christchurch mosque attacks. Kōtuitui: New Zealand Journal of Social Sciences Online, 15(2) 332-348. https://doi.org/10.1080/1177083X.2019.1705358 DOI: https://doi.org/10.1080/1177083X.2019.1705358
Ellis, G., & Muller D. (2022). Justice, the media, and the Christchurch mosque terrorist. New Zealand Law Journal, 265, 300, 336, & 378. https://search.informit.org/doi/10.3316/agispt.20221018076025
Ivanic, R., Kirchmaier, T. & Machin, S. (2019, April). Jihadi attacks, media and local hate crime. Centre for Economic Performance: Discussion Paper No 1615. DOI: https://doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.3401120
Jenkins, J. & Tandoc, E. (2017). Journalism under attack: The Charlie Hebdo covers and reconsideration of journalistic norms. Journalism, 20 (9),1165-1182. https://doi.org/10.1177/1464884917724597 DOI: https://doi.org/10.1177/1464884917724597
Kassel, W. (2009). Terrorism and the international anarchist movement of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Studies in Conﬂict & Terrorism, 32(3), 237–252. https://doi.org/10.1080/10576100802671009 DOI: https://doi.org/10.1080/10576100802671009
The New Zealand Herald (2019, May 1). Christchurch mosque shootings: Media agree to protocols for accused gunman’s trial. https://www.nzherald.co.nz/nz/christchurch-mosque-shootings-media-agree-to-protocols-for-accused-gunmans-trial/ORFN36IXQWHSON7EW57SMGM6RA/.
Van de Meer, B. (2015). The assassination of Empress Elisabeth of Austria: An investigative psychological analysis of lone-actor terrorism. Journal of Threat Assessment and Management, 2(3-4) 176-186. https://doi.org/10.1037/tam0000044 DOI: https://doi.org/10.1037/tam0000044
Copyright (c) 2023 Gavin Ellis
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License.