New Zealand Man Gets 21 Months In Prison For Sharing Footage Of The Christchurch Shooting

from the criminalizing-being-a-jerk dept

Shortly after the Christchurch mosque shooting, the New Zealand government's censorship board decided to categorize almost everything related to the shooting (the shooter's manifesto, his livestream of the shooting, his social media posts) as "objectionable." This wasn't a case of reaching an obvious conclusion. Officially terming it "objectionable" made it a criminal act to distribute any of this content via social media or other services.

Having done that, the government wasted no time bringing criminal charges against violators. The first arrest happened only two days after the shooting, netting the government an 18-year-old defendant. The more interesting arrest was the second one, which landed Phillip Arps, a local businessman with some not-so-latent white nationalist leanings.

Arps spent the hours after the shooting refusing to condemn the violent act and -- the event triggering the criminal charges -- passing around footage of the shooting. Not all that surprising for a man whose company is named after a German prison camp and who charges $14.88 a foot for insulation installation.

Since each count against Arps could have netted him a max 14 years in prison, the final sentence seems comparatively light.

A businessman in New Zealand has been sentenced to nearly two years in prison for sharing footage of the Christchurch mosque attacks, which saw a lone gunman livestream the massacre of 51 Muslims during Friday prayers on March 15.

Philip Arps, 44, was sentenced during a court hearing in Christchurch on Tuesday after having earlier pleaded guilty to two charges of distributing objectionable material.

Arps will spend 21 months in prison for sharing footage of the shooting with 30 people. This sentence only seems reasonable in comparison to the 28 years he could have been hit with. What's not reasonable is putting someone in prison for sharing footage of a crime committed by someone else, no matter how objectionable their personal beliefs are.

The government's immediate reaction to this tragedy has been emotionally-charged. This may make for speedy legislating, but first reactions are rarely the most thoughtful reactions. The government has criminalized the sharing of content the general public is going to naturally find interesting. They will seek it out and share it -- some out of curiosity and some to continue spreading their hate as thinly as possible.

This behavior shouldn't be encouraged but it also shouldn't be criminalized. But legislators and the state censorship board saw an opportunity to make a statement -- one that came with prison sentences attached -- few in the nation would openly object to. This opportunism is going to result in some sketchy prosecutions in the future -- one far less clear-cut than the punishment of a New Zealand citizen for being an asshole.

Filed Under: christchurch shooting, free speech, new zealand, objectionable material, philip arps, sharing, video


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  1. icon
    Wendy Cockcroft (profile), 20 Jun 2019 @ 5:28am

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: I no longer agree with you on this

    while he may be a jerk, he hasn't actually hurt anyone

    From Steve G's post:

    But this footage is itself part of an act of terrorism. That is different from e.g. the footage of the twin towers, which was shot by observers. This is footage shot by the terrorist. Spreading this video is his goal. He's just plead not guilty so that he has the chance to draw even more attention to his acts. Every time the video is shared, his act of terrorism increases in size. The primary goal of sharing it is to recruit others to his cause and inflict more damage on his victims; even those who themselves share it without this goal are furthering his.

    The purpose of terrorism isn't to kill people, otherwise it'd just be murder, plain and simple. The purpose of terrorism is to terrorise, i.e make people feel fearful.

    Terrorism, i.e. inspiring fear in people, is in itself a harm. It chills speech and expression in the exact same way as censorship does because it is the ultimate act of censorship. Imagine being a Muslim in Christchurch knowing that your neighbours were gleefully sharing that video around saying that the killer had the right idea. Who would issue the counter-speech? You'd keep quiet, keep your head down and dress in Western clothes to minimise the risk of abuse by your neighbours since expressing your faith would put you at risk.

    Now do you understand?


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