Media, the courts, and terrorism: Lessons from the Christchurch mosque attacks

  • Gavin Ellis Media consultant and researcher, Auckland
Keywords: Australia, Christchurch mosque attacks, court reporting, fair trial rights, judge's orders, Media and Courts Committee, media cooperation, Media Freedom Committee, media law, New Zealand, propaganda of the deed, terrorism, R v Brenton Harrison Tarrant


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.


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Author Biography

Gavin Ellis, Media consultant and researcher, Auckland

Dr Gavin Ellis is a media researcher and consultant. He is a former editor-in-chief of The New Zealand Herald and lectured in the School of Social Sciences at the University of Auckland, from which he had been awarded his doctorate in political science. He is an affiliate of Koi Tū: The Centre for Informed Futures. His website is


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How to Cite
Ellis, G. (2023). Media, the courts, and terrorism: Lessons from the Christchurch mosque attacks. Pacific Journalism Review : Te Koakoa, 29(1 & 2), 28-35.