Chief Censor David Shank is defending his decision to classify the Christchurch shooter’s manifesto as objectionable :
. . .The Free Speech Coalition said the manifesto could be important for society to understand a dark part of New Zealand’s history.
“New Zealanders need to be able to understand the nature of evil and how it expresses itself,” coalition spokesperson and constitutional lawyer Stephen Franks said.
Free speech isn’t just about what we can express, it’s also about what we can hear and read.
Defending his decision, Chief Censor David Shanks told Morning Report a number of criteria were checked when assessing this sort of material.
“We look for exhortations to kill, exhortations to commit terrorism from someone who has influence and credibility in persuading others to do likewise,” he said.
These types of publications were not the place to go in search of reasons behind such events, because they were specifically aimed at a “vulnerable and susceptible “audience, “to incite them to do the same type of crime, he said.
“There is content in this publication that points to means by which you can conduct other terrorist atrocities … it could be seen as instructional.
“There is detail in there about potential targets for this type of atrocity and there are justifications for carrying out extreme acts of cruelty.”
Those who have the publication for legitimate purposes, such as reporters, researchers and academics to analyse and educate can apply for an exception. . .
I haven’t read the manifesto and have seen enough quotes from it to know I don’t want to but it wouldn’t be hard to find it online and the censor’s classification only applies to New Zealand.
It has already been widely distributed and will continue to be so.
Michael Reddell has been reading the Censorship Act and says:
. . . As many people have pointed out, by Shanks’s logic all manner of historical documents – that are freely available – would in fact be banned. It serves the public good to be able to better understand Hitler or Mao or the Unabomber or the IRA, the PLO, or the Irgun Gang. It won’t serve public confidence, or the public good more generally, to attempt to maintain some half-cocked ban on the Tarrant “manifesto”, in a world in which writings about it – and quotes from it – will be readily available in mainstream publications, serious and otherwise, internationally. . .
Meanwhile, Stuff has been reviewing its policy on on-line comments in light of the terror attacks and concluded:
. . . Too often, our comments section has allowed casual prejudice to seep in from the fringes.
Improvement begins with Stuff’s moderation rules and how we enforce them. Effective immediately, we’re making changes designed to cut out comment pollution. . .
Comments made on-line, often under cover of a pseudonym, frequently fall well under the standard that would be accepted for a letter to the editor in print. A tightening up might be reasonable but Stuff’s new rules include:
With rare exceptions, we will not usually enable comments on stories concerning:
- allegations of criminality or misconduct
- animal cruelty
- Christchurch mosque shootings of March 2019
- court cases
- domestic violence
- immigrants or refugees
- Israel and Palestine
- missing people
- sexual orientation
- Treaty of Waitangi
- transgender issues
- vulnerable children
That’s 20 topics on which few if any comments will be permitted.
All media have the right to rules on what they will and will not allow whether it’s in print or on-line but this list of topics on which no comments will be enabled appears to be well over the top and cross the line from caution into censorship.