Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern says the country’s highest form of investigation, a royal commission of inquiry, was appropriate for “matters of the gravest public importance.”
Her Cabinet had previously agreed on holding an inquiry, but had not decided what kind of investigation would be held.
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She said the Cabinet agreed on Monday that a royal commission of inquiry “will look at what could have or should have been done to prevent the attack.”
An Australian white supremacist has been charged with murder following the March 15 attacks.
Meanwhile New Zealand is also debating the limits of free speech after their chief censor banned the 74-page manifesto written and released by the man accused of slaughtering 50 people at two mosques in the city.
The ban, issued on Saturday, means anybody caught with the document on their computer could face up to 10 years in prison, while anyone caught sending it could face 14 years. Some say the ban goes too far and risks lending both the document and the gunman mystique.
At the same time, many local media organisations are debating whether to even name the 28-year-old accused killer after Ardern vowed she would never mention him by name.
In some ways, his manifesto provides the greatest insight into his character and thinking, with neighbours and those he met in a gym in Dunedin recalling nothing particularly remarkable about him.
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Chief Censor David Shanks said the manifesto contains justifications for acts of tremendous cruelty like killing children and encourages acts of terrorism, even outlining specific places to target and methods to carry out attacks.
He said that in banning the document, he and his staff worried about drawing more attention to it. But in the end, he said, they decided they needed to treat it the same way as propaganda from groups like the Islamic State, which they have also banned.
Shanks had earlier placed a similar ban on the 17-minute lifestream video the killer filmed from a camera mounted on his helmet during the shootings. He said researchers and journalists could apply for exemptions from both bans. But while free speech advocates haven’t questioned banning the graphic video, they said banning the manifesto is a step too far.
“People are more confident of each other and their leaders when there is no room left for conspiracy theories, when nothing is hidden,” said Stephen Franks, a constitutional lawyer and spokesman for the Free Speech Coalition.
“The damage and risks are greater from suppressing these things than they are from trusting people to form their own conclusions and to see evil or madness for what it is.”
Franks said he had no interest in reading the manifesto until it was banned. He now is curious because it is “forbidden fruit,” he said, and he worries others may feel the same way.
He said the ban makes no sense when New Zealanders remain free to read Adolf Hitler’s autobiography, Mein Kampf.
Ardern told parliament last week that she wouldn’t give the gunman anything he wanted.
“He sought many things from his act of terror, but one was notoriety,” she said. “And that is why you will never hear me mention his name.”
She said people should instead remember the names of the victims.