#ChristchurchCall: What About Mainstream Media?

15 May 2019

Country: UK


After the Christchurch massacre, social media companies came under fire for allowing the terrorist’s livestream to spread across their platforms. However, in the UK, mainstream online publications like The Daily Mail and The Sun also played footage from the terrorist’s livestream on their front pages, reaching millions of viewers.

Why is no one holding these publications accountable for spreading violent content online?

Media Diversity Institute and Hacked Off are calling upon IPSO, the Independent Press Standards Organisation, and body responsible for regulating each of the above publications to re-evaluate its role in amplifying the spread of far right hatred online. Earlier this week, we started a conversation with policymakers and other stakeholders to discuss how this could be done  without compromising freedom of expression. We pointed out that if the primary role of the media is to keep the authorities accountable, then they themselves need to be accountable, which is not the case with the media outlets listed here.It is not the first time we have criticized the regulatory organisation. Over the past few months, we have worked alongside Hacked Off and other organisations to raise awareness about how IPSO handles complaints about hate mongering media coverage, allowing some UK media outlets to get away with rampantly racist and Islamophobic media coverage on a routine basis.

Each of the publications that broadcast the Christchurch livestream also have a track record of publishing hateful content, particularly against Muslims and refugees. At MDI, we have covered how inflammatory media coverage can lead to an increase in hate crimes, a phenomenon that was seen in the months following the EU referendum, and is frequently seen in the days following a terrorist attack. What is more, the language used in right-wing media coverage is often the same language used by far right extremists. It should be noted that the Christchurch killer was sharing Daily Mail articles online just days before he carried out the attacks.

Hate is hate—and it shouldn’t be amplified, no matter what the medium. While we believe firmly in the right to freedom of expression, we also believe in the right not to be discriminated against. Broadcasting livestream footage glorifying terrorism brings this discrimination to the next level—isn’t it about time to take a stand against it?

We look forward to continuing the conversation in the coming months with policymakers, freedom of expression advocates, journalists, press regulators, and other stakeholders.

Check out our campaign with Hacked Off to call on IPSO to crack down on hateful media coverage. To read our take on journalistic ethics of care in the wake of a terrorist attack, click here.