By J. D. Heyes
In the wake of New Zealand’s deadliest day and the most horrific act of domestic terrorism ever committed there, authorities are working in overdrive in their attempt to piece together what happened.
The process, however, is beginning to look a lot like an effort to bury some of the most damning evidence, perhaps as a way of tamping down emotions and, in the process, preventing another attack.
According to Radio New Zealand (RNZ), police arrested an 18-year-old man on Friday for allegedly distributing video the attacker Brenton Tarrant live-streamed on Facebook as he shot worshippers inside two Christchurch mosques.
The man, who was not named in the RNZ report, had a court appearance scheduled for Monday. The news agency noted that he was “charged under the Films Videos and Publications Classification Act,” which relates to the censorship of books, films, videos, and other publications.
According to the New Zealand government website, the law is meant to shield materials that, if published, would “be injurious to the public good,” which includes “harm to a person’s body whether it involves infliction of pain or not…or self-inflicted death,” and “conduct that, if imitated, would pose a real risk of serious harm to self or others or both.” among other provisions.
RNZ noted further that police have announced anyone who is in possession of the Tarrant video “or found to be distributing it, could face imprisonment.”
Freelance journalist Nick Monroe tweeted before the man’s court appearance that people in New Zealand were likely to be arrested by police for sharing a livestream of the murders.
According to ABC News, New Zealand Police Commissioner Mike Bush and Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern have been warning citizens not to share the Tarrant video or any footage of the attack. The news network reported online:
Mia Garlick, a spokesperson for Facebook New Zealand, said 1.5 million videos of the attack had been removed from the platform globally within the first 24 hours of it occurring. That included 1.2 million that were blocked during the upload stage.
Police have said they have no indication that the 18-year-old was involved or had any role in the attack. So it sounds as though his arrest and possible prosecution is meant to send a message to the rest of the country.
“We would like to remind people that it is an offense to distribute or possess an objectionable publication (under the 1993 law), which carries a penalty of imprisonment,” NZ police said in a statement.
“The live stream of the shootings in Christchurch has been classified by the Chief Censor’s Office as objectionable,” the statement continued.
New Zealand’s largest satellite television provider took Sky News Australia off the air after the network repeatedly broadcast footage of the live stream.
Police say Tarrant killed 50 people and wounded 50 more. About a dozen people remain in critical condition, officials said on Sunday.
While it seems clear that the video has been removed from the public after it was deemed to have violated the country’s laws against broadcasting or possessing such materials, others have said there may be a sinister motive behind the attack— which could be driving New Zealand’s effort to keep the video from spreading.
A version of this story first appeared at NewsTarget.
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