Five New Zealand news organizations, Radio New Zealand, TV New Zealand, Media Works, NZME, and Stuff, agreed not to publish certain information when reporting on the trial against the Australian man accused of the March terrorism attacks in Christchurch, New Zealand.
According to the Guardian, the five outlets signed an agreement saying they will be careful in reporting to make sure their reporting doesn’t “amplify white supremacist and/or terrorist views or ideology” by airing any white supremacist group “imagery, symbols or signals.”
“We are also mindful of our role as the ‘eyes and ears of the public’ in the context of court reporting,” the agreement says.
iMediaEthics wrote to the five outlets for more information.
Radio New Zealand’s CEO and editor-in-chief Paul Thompson told iMediaEthics by e-mail, “RNZ helped lead the discussion with the other editors about the protocol because we believed it was important to make a public commitment to covering the proceedings robustly and responsibly.
We wanted to make our joint position clear. And to be proactive rather then reactive.”
“We also wanted to emphasise that we would not be pawns in anyone’s attempt to spread hateful propaganda off the back of the trial. That said, each of us will do a thorough job of covering the trial for our respective audience,” he added.
On its website, Radio NZ listed the terms of the agreement, which include to “limit any coverage” of comments, the manifesto document or symbols that “actively champion white supremacist or terrorist ideology.” In addition, the news outlets will pixelate any white supremacist signals in images, and have its “experienced personnel” cover the trial.
TV NZ’s Head of News and Current Affairs John Gillespie provided iMediaEthics with the following quote by e-mail:
“RNZ’s Paul Thompson initiated the discussion among the newsrooms and we quickly came together on a shared protocol that aligned with our individual editorial positions. The protocols are unprecedented in terms of our media history – they come in response to an unprecedented event. The Prime Minister called March 15 one of New Zealand’s darkest days.
“Our five news organizations don’t want the accused gunman to be able to use the court as a platform to encourage like-minded people with extremist political views.
“New Zealanders have very strong feelings about giving this individual any profile. We wanted to clearly communicate our editorial commitment and the care and consideration we’re giving this issue – so our viewers know where we stand. We also wanted to let the courts know we were taking our responsibilities seriously. The agreement allows each newsroom to continue to bring its own voice to its work and pursue its own stories.”
News Hub provided iMediaEthics with the following quote from
Hal Crawford, News Hub Chief News Officer: “We thought a united front on coverage was a good idea because in striking a balance between responsible reporting and open justice – ie not giving the accused a platform for hateful ideology but still doing our jobs – it is helpful to know that other NZ newsrooms were going to take the same approach.”