New Zealand’s censorship office has made it an offence to share or possess the hate-filled manifesto of the alleged gunman behind the Christchurch mosque shootings.
The document has been deemed “objectionable” under the country’s laws, and officials have asked those who have downloaded it to delete it.
“Others have referred to this publication as a ‘manifesto’, but I consider it a crude booklet that promotes murder and terrorism,” New Zealand’s Chief Censor David Shanks said in a statement.
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Last Friday, 50 people were killed and dozens of others injured after a gunman attacked two mosques in Christchurch. A 17-minute video of the attack that was livestreamed online has already been deemed an offence to possess or share.
“There is an important distinction to be made between ‘hate speech’, which may be rejected by many right-thinking people but which is legal to express, and this type of publication, which is deliberately constructed to inspire further murder and terrorism,” Shanks said of the manifesto.
The statement said that while most New Zealanders who read the content would be repelled by its hateful message, they are not the target audience.
“It is aimed at a small group who may be receptive to its hateful, racist and violent ideology, and who may be inspired to follow the example set by its apparent author,” Shanks said.
Under New Zealand law, the maximum penalty for possessing material an individual knows to be objectionable is imprisonment up to 10 years or a fine up to $50,000 ($100,000 for organizations). A conviction for distribution carries up to 14 years in prison.
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Shanks said the use of excerpts of the manifesto in media reports may not constitute a breach of the law, and that exceptions to the ban may be granted for the purposes of education, analysis and reporting.
“Real care needs to be taken around reporting on this publication, given that widespread media reporting on this material was clearly what the author was banking on, in order to spread their message,” he added.
Brenton Tarrant, a 28-year-old Australian, has been charged with murder in relation to the attack and is expected to face further charges.
The massacre prompted New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern to initiate a ban on the sale of semi-automatic weapons.