NZ man arrested, faces prison for allegedly spreading mosque shooting video

An 18-year-old New Zealander has been jailed without bail for allegedly sharing a video of the Christchurch mosque attack, as well as posting an image of the mosque days before the massacre, with the caption “Target acquired.”

The man appeared before Christchurch District Court on Monday. He was arraigned on two charges, both under the Films Video and Publications Classifications Act, which prohibits the distribution or possession of material determined to be “objectionable.”

The charge from March 15 refers to him allegedly spreading the blood-curdling footage that was live-streamed by alleged perpetrator Brenton Tarrant as he gunned down worshippers in the Al Noor mosque in central Christchurch.

The other alleged violation dates from March 8 up to the day of the attack, when he allegedly posted a photo of the mosque with the chilling caption “Target acquired.” The teenager is also said to have posted messages aimed at stirring violence in an online chat forum. Police have said that he was not involved in the shooting itself.

In a statement on Sunday, police said they had apprehended a local man who is not believed to be directly linked to the attacker. While law enforcement had initially reported that the suspect was 22-years-old, they later issued a correction, identifying him as a being 18.

“The live-stream video of the shootings in Christchurch has been classified by the Chief Censor’s Office as objectionable,” they said.

The alleged breach of the 1993 law may result in a prison sentence, police added.

The judge granted a request for interim name suppression, but allowed photos to be released of the man in court with his face blurred.

It was reported that the 18-year-old was originally charged with posting material with the purpose of inciting hostility against a group of people based on race, ethnicity or national background. But these charges were thrown out and replaced with others on Monday.

Under the law, the publication is ‘objectionable’ if it “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.”

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The man will remain in jail and will appear before court via online conference on April 8.

The news of the man’s arrest comes shortly after New Zealand’s biggest satellite television provider, Sky Network Television, yanked Sky News Australia off its platform for airing clips from the footage. It said in a tweet, which has since been deleted, that it decided to remove Sky News Australia off air until they are “confident that the distressing footage” is no longer being shared.

Facebook, meanwhile, has launched a wide-ranging crackdown against those spreading the gruesome first-person-shooter-like footage, erasing 1.5 million clips of the video in 24 hours, including 1.2 million that were removed while they were still being uploaded.

In the wake of the attack that left 50 people dead in two Christchurch mosques on Friday, NZ Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern appealed to the public and media organizations not to show the graphic footage.

“We should not share, spread, or actively engage in that message of hate,” she said.

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