New Zealand media organisations will take a united approach to covering the trial of the man accused of committing the Christchurch terror attacks.
On March 15, 50 people were killed during terror attacks in Christchurch.
Senior editors from Mediaworks, TVNZ, Stuff, NZME and RNZ have agreed to a set of guidelines to be followed while reporting on the trial of the accused shooter.
The alleged gunman faces 50 murder charges and 39 charges of attempted murder.
This protocol will ensure coverage is comprehensive and responsible in the interests of open justice.
There will be significant public interest in the case from New Zealanders as well as internationally, and the media outlets want to be mindful of their duty as the “eyes and ears” of the public.
In a statement from the editors, who make up the NZ Media Freedom Committee, they acknowledge this will be important for the victims’ friends and families outside New Zealand who may otherwise be unable to engage in the trial process.
However, the protocols say coverage will not “actively champion white supremacist or terrorist ideology”.
“We are aware that the accused may attempt to use the trial as a platform to amplify white supremacist and/or terrorist views or ideology”.
Hal Crawford, Mediaworks chief news officer, said it was good to see editors of the big New Zealand newsrooms “of one mind on coverage of this crucial trial”.
“At issue are principles of open justice – it is important that the guidelines are consistent with the reporting principles that underpin our free society – that is, we don’t suppress information needlessly.”
The guidelines specifically state:
a) We shall, to the extent that is compatible with the principles of open justice, limit any coverage of statements that actively champion white supremacist or terrorist ideology
b) For the avoidance of doubt, the commitment set out at a) shall include the accused’s manifesto document
c) We will not broadcast or report on any message, imagery, symbols, or signals (including hand signals) made by the accused or his associates promoting or supporting white supremacist ideology
d) Where the inclusion of such signals in any images is unavoidable, the relevant parts of the image shall be pixelated
e) To the greatest extent possible, the journalists that are selected by each of the outlets to cover the trial will be experienced personnel
f) These guidelines may be varied at any time, subject to a variation signed by all parties
g) This Protocol shall continue in force indefinitely.
The signees are Miriyana Alexander (chair of the Media Freedom Committee and from NZME), Crawford (Mediaworks), John Gillespie (TVNZ), Shayne Currie (NZME), Mark Stevens (Stuff), and Paul Thompson (RNZ).
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