Six Charged in New Zealand for Sharing Mosque Shooting Video Online
New Zealand police have charged six people with illegally redistributing live-streamed videos and images of the March 15th shootings at Christchurch mosques. They’re being charged with supplying or distributing objectionable material, which carries a maximum sentence of 14 years in prison.
Philip Arps, 44, and an unnamed suspect, 18, appeared in court on Monday in front of a New Zealand judge. (The other four suspects are not currently in custody, and their names are currently being withheld by officials.)
The 18-year-old suspect is accused of sharing livestreamed footage of the attack, as well as a still image of one of the mosques targeted with the caption “target acquired.” Both he and Arps were denied bail.
Arps is the owner of an insulation company called Beneficial Insulation. According to the New York Post, the logo of Arps’ business is a sunwheel (also known as a sonnenrad), an ancient European symbol that has been used by neo-Nazis as a reference to Aryan or Norse heritage. Arps has also previously appeared in a 2016 video in which he delivered pigs’ heads to one of the mosques targeted in the attacks, which was widely distributed among neo-Nazi circles.
A 28-year-old Australian man has been charged with carrying out the attacks against worshippers at al Noor moque and Linwood Islamic Center in Christchurch, New Zealand, in which 50 people were killed. The man is being charged with 50 murder counts and 39 counts of attempted murder.
The suspect also livestreamed the attacks and released a violently Islamophobic manifesto beforehand. Although Facebook said that less than 200 people watched the original, 17-minute livestream of the attacks, in a tweet the company said that it had to remove nearly 1.5 million videos of the attacks 24 hours after the shootings.
Shortly after the attacks, New Zealand’s chief censor David Shanks issued a statement announcing that the shooter’s manifesto and footage had been banned under the Films Videos and Publications Classification Act (FVPCA) 1993, an act that bans the dissemination of “objectionable” content, defined as content that “describes, depicts, expresses, or otherwise deals with matters such as sex, horror, crime, cruelty, or violence in such a manner that the availability of the publication is likely to be injurious to the public good.” In the past, ISIS propaganda has also received similar classification.
Of the video footage specifically, Shanks said, “every New Zealander should now be clear that this clip is an illegal, harmful and reprehensible record created to promote a terrorist cause. If you have a record of it, you must delete it. If you see it, you should report it,” he said. “Possessing or distributing it is illegal, and only supports a criminal agenda.”