New Zealand bans manifesto, objectionable by the Chief Censor

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New Zealand bans manifesto, objectionable by the Chief Censor.

The manifesto allegedly written by the accused Christchurch gunman has been officially classified as objectionable by the Chief Censor.

Just prior to the Christchurch attacks last week, when a gunman allegedly took the lives of 50 worshippers at two mosques, he left a 74-page manifesto that he posted on social media, identifying himself as a white nationalist who was out to avenge attacks in Europe perpetrated by Muslims.

He also sent the document titled, ‘The Great Replacement’ to the Prime Minister’s office just prior to the attacks.

The document, examined under the Films, Videos & Publications Classification Act 1993 (FVPCA), is deemed objectionable for a number of reasons.

“It promotes, encourages and justifies acts of murder and terrorist violence against identified groups of people,” says Chief Censor, David Shanks.

“Others have referred to this publication as a ‘manifesto’, but I consider it a crude booklet that promotes murder and terrorism. It is objectionable under New Zealand law,” he says.

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“It identifies specific places for potential attack in New Zealand, and refers to the means by which other types of attack may be carried out. It contains justifications for acts of tremendous cruelty, such as the deliberate killing of children.

“We have dealt with terrorist promotional material before which was deliberately designed to inspire, encourage and instruct other like-minded individuals to carry out further attacks. For example we have found a number of ISIS publications to be objectionable in previous decisions. This publication falls in the same category.”

An objectionable classification for this publication is considered to be a justifiable limit on freedom of expression under the Bill of Rights Act in this case.

“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,” says Mr Shanks.

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“It crosses the line.”

It is recognised that the publication has been widely reported on over the past week, with many media outlets publishing commentary on it, and sometimes providing links to it or downloadable copies.

Many New Zealanders may have read it, possibly seeking answers for why this dreadful atrocity took place.

Most people reading the publication will not be harmed by it.

“Most New Zealanders who have read this will simply find it repellent. But most New Zealanders 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,” said Mr Shanks.

It is an offence to possess or distribute an objectionable publication. People who have downloaded this document, or printed it, should destroy any copies, Mr Shanks said.

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Those engaged in further reporting on the Christchurch attack may be tempted to consider the use of quotes from the publication that have already been used in other media reports.

“That use of excerpts in media reports may not in itself amount to a breach of the FVPCA, but ethical considerations will certainly apply,” said Mr Shanks.

“Real care needs to be taken around reporting on this publication, given that widespread media reporting on this material was clearlywhat the author was banking on, in order to spread their message.

“We also appreciate that there will be a range of people, including reporters, researchers and academics, who will be in possession of the publication for a range of legitimate purposes, including education, analysis and in-depth reporting. Those individuals can apply for exemptions, so they can legitimately access and hold a copy,” says Mr Shanks.

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