A man who sent several gruesome videos allegedly made by Isis which depicted murders, beheadings and people being mutilated to his friends has failed in his bid to have them made legal.
The man, whose name is suppressed, sent the videos to several friends in a chat group without any context and was then charged with possession of objectionable material.
It was the Classification Office that made the initial ruling in September last year the videos were objectionable and therefore illegal to watch or possess.
However, the man appealed that ruling to the Film and Literature Review Board in an attempt to have it overturned. However, this week, the board upheld the ruling.
The first video was a 23-second clip that showed a man in combat clothing speaking Arabic to the camera before shooting a weapon at a man kneeling a few metres away.
The second video was over four minutes long and was a compilation of clips from different sources and websites associated with Isis. The clips depicted a range of gruesome injuries, murders, assaults, beheadings and executions and were edited in such a way as to depict “maximum gore”, according to the board’s ruling.
In his submissions to the board, the man said the Classification Office had failed to prove sharing the videos constituted support for the violence contained in them.
He said freedom of expression was a fundamental aspect of a democratic society and that concept applied to material that may shock, offend or disturb others.
The man went on to argue that the videos were sent in a closed chat group and did not imply the violence depicted should be imitated or even supported.
“The publications contain no instructions, no encouragement and no direction to emulate the activities contained within the publications,” the board’s summary of the man’s submissions states.
“While the videos are harrowing to watch, similar depictions are found on the news as well as in movies and other visual media.”
The Classification Office that ruled the videos were objectionable submitted to the board the first video was not a natural depiction of extreme violence but was filmed to justify a cruel execution.
It said that the second montage video was focused on extreme real-life violence and cruelty and the gratuitous nature of it was intensified by the “deranged and frenzied soundtrack”.
“It trivialises human suffering and normalises acts of extreme violence and cruelty. The video also contains a significant number of clips featuring graphic beheadings and executions by members of Islamic State and are likely to be from videos created by that organisation to promote and glorify it,” the Classification Office noted in its submissions.
“The ongoing availability of these clips is likely to have an insidious effect on those who are vulnerable to radicalisation.”
The Film and Literature Review Board upheld the Classification Office’s decision, saying the first video was obviously an execution scene.
“It is violent, extremist content, and it is clear that the man in the video is seeking to promote and support execution of those who he may perceive as the enemy for whatever reason. There is no other possible explanation for the video, in the board’s view.”
“… it glorifies extreme cruelty and violence as a way to resolve disagreement and seeks to normalise such graphic violence.”
As for the montage, the board said there appeared to be no purpose for the video other than supporting extreme cruelty and violence.
“The clips are harrowing and gratuitous and have been very carefully chosen from longer clips for maximum effect.”
“The video may be seen as appealing to a sector of the public who may see it as encouragement to go out and commit similar acts of violence.”
“Its fast pace gives the effect of trying to desensitise the viewers to the fact people are being graphically killed.”
Jeremy Wilkinson is an Open Justice reporter based in Manawatū covering courts and justice issues with an interest in tribunals. He has been a journalist for nearly a decade and has worked for NZME since 2022.