It has been striking that even now during and after the sentencing of the perpetrator the mosque attacks in Christchurch on March 15 2019, we have rarely heard his name on television or radio news bulletins.

Four days after the shootings Aotearoa New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern advocated this approach in her address to parliament:

“He sought many things from his act of terror, but one was notoriety. And that is why you will never hear me mention his name. He is a terrorist. He is a criminal. He is an extremist. But he will, when I speak, be nameless. And, to others, I implore you: speak the names of those who were lost, rather than the name of the man who took them. He may have sought notoriety, but we in New Zealand will give him nothing. Not even his name.”

An analysis by the Columbia Journalism Review one week after the attacks compared the approaches of media in different countries in a framework of best practice guidelines for coverage of such events. Media in Australia and the UK were more likely to publish details such as his name than in NZ or the US. They reported that in NZ the public wanted to focus on the victims:

The most popular story of the week following the shooting was a set of biographies of all the victims of the shooting, focusing on their lives and their faith, published by the New Zealand Herald, which was shared almost 1.4 million times on Facebook.

This approach was also taken in the message boards which sprung up throughout the country.

Message board in Civic Square, Wellington

The shooter pleaded guilty so there was no trial. Many people were relieved that he made no statement at his court sentencing (from Latin sententia ‘opinion’, from sentire ‘feel, be of the opinion’), but the names of the men, women and children who died were again heard through the victim impact statements. His sentence yesterday was to life imprisonment without parole; originally meaning ‘word, promise,’ parole gives the opportunity to be released under supervision. Parole hearings would have been a chance for future statements by the shooter (and his victims). Everyone seems relieved that this will not happen, reaffirmed last night by Jacinda Ardern:

“His deserves to be a lifetime of complete and utter silence”.


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