A Christchurch man has failed in a bid to lift restrictions on the mosque shooting livestream video.
Brian Johnston applied for a review of an Office of Film and Literature Classification ruling that classified the March 15 terror attacks livestream video as objectionable due to its depiction and promotion of extreme violence and terrorism.
The gunman produced a livestream video on the shootings that he uploaded to Facebook 10 minutes after they began.
The Film and Literature Board of Review rejected Johnston’s application.
Johnston argued New Zealanders should be able to analyse the video for themselves, partly to assist them making submissions to the Royal Commission of Inquiry into the attacks.
The video was not graphic, did not incite hatred and could not reasonably be considered as offensive, Johnston said.
The public viewed more violence on television news broadcasts and on YouTube than what was portrayed in the video, he argued. The video was also not a livestream of the March 15 shooting as it took place. It might be a drill or mock up and therefore was not “in a real sense” violent or graphic.
He said the video was being examined “frame by frame” overseas and since thousands had viewed the video, the ban was pointless.
The board said the video did more than just depict extreme violence and extreme cruelty.
“It celebrates and endorses the massacre of Muslims.
“There are a number of aspects of the video which in the board’s mind clearly encourage and, indeed, celebrate in a graphic and horrific way the slaughter of innocent Muslim men, women and children in a manner the availability of which is, without doubt, likely to be injurious to the public good.”
The board said the classification was a reasonable limit “that is demonstrably justified in a free and democratic society”.
“In contrast to the applicant’s submission to the contrary, the events depicted in the video are indisputably horrific. Unarmed and innocent persons are systematically shot by the alleged attacker. He returns to rooms in the mosque again and again, discharging his weapons repeatedly into persons running away from him or already injured, dying or deceased.
“At one point, leaving the mosque in his car, the alleged attacker drives over a person lying prone on the footpath in front of the mosque. He fires indiscriminately at pedestrians passing by. There is no doubt that these events depict the infliction of extreme violence and extreme cruelty.
“But that is not the end of the matter. The board is satisfied that, rather than just the depiction of such extreme violence and cruelty, the livestream video goes further to in fact promote such extreme violence and cruelty to Muslims. The video comes across clearly as a celebration of such extreme violence and cruelty to Muslims. It employs cultural props to convey the message that it is acceptable to kill Muslims and comes across as a form of instructional manual.”
Chief censor David Shanks welcomed the decision saying the need for the classification was clear and justifiable.
“Any decision that restricts New Zealanders’ freedoms is a significant decision. This is particularly true in this case, where so many people have been affected by the horrific and deeply tragic events that are the subject of this video.
“New Zealanders should be able to test any decision affecting their freedoms, and it is good that such a review has been able to be sought and obtained, relatively quickly in this case.”
His office had applied the same framework to the video that it used for assessing material such as Isis-promotional clips portraying killings and terrorist acts in the name of that cause.
“Taking that approach we were confident that the video was also objectionable under New Zealand law. We see it as positive that the board has also used a similar approach to come to the same conclusion.
“And, for the tiny minority who may try to continue to distribute this material to promote hate and killing, there should be no doubt that what they are doing is not just unacceptable – it is illegal.”
Johnston was the only person to apply for a review of the video ruling by the Office of Film and Literature Classification.
The board is now considering an appeal* against the classification of the gunman’s manifesto as “objectionable”, making it illegal to possess or distribute it, with some exceptions.