OPINION

We are today publishing an image of the man charged in relation to the massacre of worshippers at mosques in Christchurch.

Some of our readers have asked why.

It's a legitimate question, especially given many people, notably Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern, have said they will not utter his name.

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We, clearly, take a different view.

As readers would expect, this has been a considered decision; one we certainly haven't taken lightly. Senior editorial leaders of the Herald have discussed the matter at length.

Protocols around the coverage of the case have been set and agreed to by all major New Zealand media organisations, including ours.

The guidelines specifically state:

a) We shall, to the extent that is compatible with the principles of open justice, limit any coverage of statements that actively champion white supremacist or terrorist ideology;

b) For the avoidance of doubt, the commitment set out at a) shall include the accused's manifesto document;

c) We will not broadcast or report on any message, imagery, symbols, or signals (including hand signals) made by the accused or his associates promoting or supporting white supremacist ideology;

d) Where the inclusion of such signals in any images is unavoidable, the relevant parts of the image shall be pixelated;

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e) To the greatest extent possible, the journalists that are selected by each of the outlets to cover the trial will be experienced personnel;

f) These guidelines may be varied at any time, subject to a variation signed by all parties;

g) This protocol shall continue in force indefinitely.

In light of the agreed protocol, senior editors at the Herald give due consideration to each article relating to this case. There are dozens of news updates, opinion columns and feature articles relating to what is a significant episode in New Zealand's history.

Editors discuss the merits and approach of each report, including whether Brenton Tarrant will be named, or his photograph used.

Our role in the court proceedings is to be the "eyes and ears" of the public in the courtroom. We have an obligation to faithfully report to the public what is taking place. It's an obligation we agree to with the utmost seriousness.

At the suggestion of RNZ's chief executive Paul Thompson, heads of major New Zealand newsrooms considered how to cover the alleged shooter's trial. News chiefs unanimously agreed to keep naming him.

As Hal Crawford wrote in a piece for MediaWorks recently, the naming of the accused is necessary for open justice, and open justice is a foundation of our free society. We entirely agree with him.

Readers can be assured we will not show any signals Tarrant may make in the dock, and we will not report from his forbidden manifesto.

Aside from these limitations, which we have agreed to and will maintain, the principles of open justice must apply. We will not suppress information needlessly.

As readers would expect, there will be no gratuitous coverage of the court proceedings, nor of the accused. The publication of his name and image will be standard and without unnecessary repetition or prominence on updates from matters presented to the court.

There is significant public interest in this case, from New Zealanders and also internationally. Brenton Tarrant doesn't deserve special treatment, but we recognise some people are reading who do.

People who cannot be at the court deserve to know what is taking place. We acknowledge our coverage will be especially important for the victims' families and friends, specifically those who cannot be at court.

As we have said, many of our articles will not name the accused, nor include his image. And, in keeping with orders of the court, the names of some victims have been suppressed. These will also be omitted from our coverage.

Signed,

Shayne Currie and Murray Kirkness
Shayne Currie is NZME's managing editor and Murray Kirkness is the editor of the Herald.