Popular New Zealand website seeks comments detox after Christchurch attack

Updated 26 March 2019
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Popular New Zealand website seeks comments detox after Christchurch attack

  • “The individual is segregated from other prisoners and able to be observed 24 hours a day, either directly by staff and/or via CCTV camera,” it said in a statement

WELLINGTON: New Zealand’s largest news website, Stuff, cracked down on reader comments Tuesday after the Christchurch mosque massacre sparked debate about how the media handles online hate.
The stuff.co.nz site said it aimed to host a welcoming online environment but conceded “too often, our comments section has allowed casual prejudice to seep in from the fringes.”
“Of the comments that are posted, most are fair expression — but it only takes a little toxin to poison an entire stream,” Stuff editor-in-chief Patrick Crewdson wrote on the website.
Christchurch shooting accused Brenton Tarrant is believed to have posted a rambling “manifesto” online before a gun rampage at two mosques that claimed 50 lives in the South Island city on March 15.
Tarrant, an Australian white supremacist, apparently made references in the document designed to maximize mainstream media coverage of his actions.
He also livestreamed the attack and the footage was aired by some media outlets — although New Zealand authorities have since banned both the video and the document.
The atrocity, the worst mass shooting in New Zealand’s history, has prompted soul-searching among journalists and media outlets about how to stop extremists using them as a vehicle to spread extreme views.
“The accused’s abhorrent ideology was rehearsed in the darkest corners of the web, not on mainstream news sites, but it’s still timely for us to check the health of Stuff’s comments section,” Crewdson wrote.
He said the site’s moderators would clamp down on personal attacks and prejudice, while the ability to upvote or downvote comments would be removed.

In addition, comments will be permanently disabled on a range of contentious topics, including the Christchurch shootings, Israel/Palestine, vaccinations and transgender issues.
“We’ll be accused of censorship and curtailing free speech, others will say we should shutter the comments section entirely,” Crewdson said.
Stuff, formerly Fairfax New Zealand, is one of New Zealand’s largest media companies, with newspaper mastheads including the Christchurch Press and Wellington’s Dominion Post.
Its flagship news website stuff.co.nz is New Zealand’s most popular with around 1.8 million unique viewers a month, just ahead of the other major player, nzherald.co.nz.
Meanwhile, authorities have confirmed Tarrant’s next court appearance will be in Christchurch, even though he is believed to have been moved to a prison elsewhere in the country.
The Justice Department confirmed his next scheduled appearance is in Christchurch High Court on Friday, April 5, although it is unclear if he will be physically present in the dock or appear via video.
Tarrant has reportedly been transferred to New Zealand’s only maximum-security facility at the recently upgraded Auckland Prison at Paremoremo.
The Corrections Department refused to confirm Tarrant’s location but did provide some details about the conditions he faces.
“The individual is segregated from other prisoners and able to be observed 24 hours a day, either directly by staff and/or via CCTV camera,” it said in a statement.
“He is being managed in accordance with the provisions set out in the Corrections Act 2004 and our international obligations for the treatment of prisoners. At this time he has no access to television, radio or newspapers and no approved visitors.”
New Zealand media have reported that if convicted, the accused will likely be isolated to prevent him being targeted by the largely Polynesian prison population over his white supremacist views.


Erdogan slams Western media over negative economy coverage

Updated 18 April 2019
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Erdogan slams Western media over negative economy coverage

  • Turkey’s economy has slipped into its first recession in a decade after a currency crisis last year battered the lira
  • The Turkish leader has in the past attacked Western media coverage on the country’s economy

ISTANBUL: Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Thursday criticized Western media coverage of the country’s economy after a Financial Times report questioned the central bank’s management of foreign currency reserves.
Turkey’s economy has slipped into its first recession in a decade after a currency crisis last year battered the lira, leaving foreign investors jittery over the government’s policies to manage growth.
The Financial Times on Wednesday reported that the central bank had bolstered its foreign reserves with short-term lending in what analysts worried was a way to overstate its buffer against any new lira crisis.
Last month, the lira fell nearly six percent in one day because of investor concerns over foreign reserves as well as worries the government had turned to unorthodox ways to shore up the currency before March 31 elections.
“Unfortunately, some quarters in the West, using all their media tools, are trying to say our economy has collapsed,” Erdogan told a business forum.
“Let them write what they want, write the headlines they want. The Financial Times writes some things. But the situation in my country is clear.”
The Turkish leader has in the past attacked Western media coverage on the country’s economy. Last month, he blamed currency fluctuations on a Western plot led by the United States to weaken Turkey.
The lira was down almost 1.5 percent against the dollar in Thursday afternoon trading.
The Financial Times story said it had calculated Turkey’s foreign reserves were much lower than the $28.1 billion officially reported in April if the short-term borrowing was stripped out of the calculation.
In a response to the FT, the central bank acknowledged short-term operations may impact reserve figures, though it said its accounting was in compliance with international standards.
But some analysts told the FT they were worried about unorthodox methods and transparency.
The weakening economy was part of the reason Erdogan’s AKP lost Ankara and Istanbul in last month’s local election, in what was a stinging rebuke to the ruling party after more than a decade and a half in power.
After a trade dispute with the US last year, Washington imposed sanctions on Turkey and tariffs on some Turkish goods, leading to a 30 percent slide in the lira’s value.