Christchurch attack: Jacinda Ardern calls for united global response to social media's dangers

Muslims (foreground) praying in front of the Al Noor Mosque, the first attack site, while being protected by a line of locals in Christchurch yesterday. The bullet-riddled mosque, where more than 40 people died, was being cleaned and repaired for Fri
Muslims (foreground) praying in front of the Al Noor Mosque, the first attack site, while being protected by a line of locals in Christchurch yesterday. The bullet-riddled mosque, where more than 40 people died, was being cleaned and repaired for Friday prayers.PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE
Zaid Mustafa, 13, the son and brother respectively of massacre victims Khaled and Hamza Mustafa, attending their funeral at the Memorial Park Cemetery in Christchurch yesterday. "I should be lying beside you," the injured boy was heard saying at thei
Zaid Mustafa, 13, the son and brother respectively of massacre victims Khaled and Hamza Mustafa, attending their funeral at the Memorial Park Cemetery in Christchurch yesterday. "I should be lying beside you," the injured boy was heard saying at their graves.PHOTO: DPA

CHRISTCHURCH • New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern yesterday called for a global response to the dangers of social media as the Muslim community began burying their dead five days after a massacre at two mosques.

Ms Ardern said that while her focus was on the people of New Zealand, there were issues world leaders needed "to confront collectively".

"We cannot, for instance, just simply deal with some of the issues we face with our social media... on a case-by-case basis," she said. "There is an argument there to be made for us to take a united front on a global issue.

"This is not just an issue for New Zealand - the fact that social media platforms have been used to spread violence (and) material that incites violence. All of us need to present a united front," said Ms Ardern.

The white supremacist gunman in the massacre at the two mosques live-streamed 17 minutes of carnage in which he killed 50 Muslim worshippers during Friday prayers.

Facebook said the live-stream from Christchurch was viewed fewer than 200 times but it had to remove a staggering 1.5 million videos as footage of the slaughter went viral. In the United States, a congressional panel said it was asking top executives from US tech firms to explain the proliferation online of the "horrific" video. The House Committee on Homeland Security called it "critically important" to filter such violent images.

A 44-year-old businessman was remanded in custody after a preliminary court appearance in Christchurch yesterday on charges of distributing footage of one of the mosque shootings. If found guilty, he faces up to 14 years in jail. A teenager appeared in court earlier this week on the same charge.

Ms Ardern also announced that New Zealand would hold two minutes of silence as a mark of respect for the dead tomorrow and the call to prayers for Muslims will be broadcast nationally. Women in the country were being encouraged to wear headscarves to show their support for the Muslim community.

Ms Ardern earlier visited Cashmere High School in Christchurch which lost two students in the attack - teenagers Sayyad Milne and Hamza Mustafa - along with Hamza's father Khaled, and former student Tariq Omar.

She talked to about 200 children about racism and changes in gun laws. "Never mention the perpetrator's name... never remember him for what he did," she said, asking the children to focus on the victims.

The first funerals for the victims of the deadly terror attack in New Zealand began yesterday - with hundreds turning up at the Christchurch cemetery to pay their respects. Officials did not provide the names of those being laid to rest, but some of
The first funerals for the victims of the deadly terror attack in New Zealand began yesterday - with hundreds turning up at the Christchurch cemetery to pay their respects. Officials did not provide the names of those being laid to rest, but some of those at the funerals told Agence France-Presse that two victims were buried. Only six of the 50 victims of the mass shooting at two mosques have been returned to their families so far, with the rest still undergoing autopsies and formal identification. New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern announced that the country would observe two minutes of silence tomorrow as a mark of respect for the victims. PHOTO: REUTERS

Mr Khaled Mustafa and his son were buried yesterday in the first funerals for those killed as New Zealanders braced themselves for days of emotional farewells.

Hundreds of mostly Muslim mourners gathered yesterday morning at a cemetery near Linwood Mosque, one of the two places of worship targeted, to lay Mr Khaled and Hamza to rest. The family had arrived last year as refugees from the Syrian maelstrom only to find tragedy in a land where they had sought sanctuary.

Mr Khaled, 44, and Hamza, 15, were shot dead at the Al Noor Mosque, the first attack site. Mr Khaled leaves a wife, daughter and son Zaid, 13, who was wounded in the shootings.

 
 
 

Mr Jamil El-Biza, who came from the Sydney area to attend the funerals, said Zaid said at the graves of his brother and father: "I should be lying beside you."

Also present was Mr Abdul Aziz, an Afghan refugee who confronted the gunman at Linwood Mosque. He was embraced by many mourners.

In a sign of lingering tensions, the PA system at the funeral announced evacuation procedures at the venue in the event of an emergency, mourners said. A total of six burials were expected yesterday.

Meanwhile, the bullet-riddled Al Noor Mosque, where more than 40 people died, was being cleaned and repaired for Friday prayers.

Near the mosque, members of rival gangs did a Maori haka, a powerful indigenous ceremonial performance, and a crowd of people sung New Zealand's national anthem as the sun set.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, REUTERS

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 21, 2019, with the headline 'Ardern calls for united global response to social media's dangers'. Print Edition | Subscribe