It has been over a week now since 50 Muslim worshippers were killed in Christchurch, New Zealand. The attacker livestreamed his killing spree on Facebook and the video - all 17 minutes of it - spread from there. 

In Australia, where the killer came from, a lot of people are blaming the media - especially news outlets owned by Rupert Murdoch - for sowing the seeds of the hate unleashed in Christchurch.

A study conducted by OnePath Network, an Islamic media outlet based in Sydney, tallied up the number of negative stories that five Australian newspapers owned by Rupert Murdoch's NewsCorp produced in the year 2017.

It found almost 3,000 such stories referring to Islam or Muslims, alongside words like "violence", "terrorism" or "radical".

"Once every second day in 2017 there was a front page that demonised and spoke negatively about Muslims. This is bound to have an impact on the way that Australians and mainstream perceive Islam or Muslims ... His (Murdoch's) newspapers are quite disproportionate in their coverage when it comes to Muslims. They exaggerate certain aspects. They are quite divisive and dangerous. And sometimes, they are completely wrong," said Malaz Majanni, founder and CEO of OnePath Network.

"If Islam was a person, then Islam would have a very good defamation case against the Murdoch press." 

While the Murdoch media empire is headquartered in New York and entrenched in London, it got its start - and remains hugely influential - in Australia, the country where the Christchurch killer was born, raised, and possibly radicalised.

It was social media where he went to spread his ideology, but Priyamvada Gopal, an academic and writer, says, "we should recognise that white supremacy and other ideologies of hate pre-existed the internet. So while we pay due attention to the sheer speed and global reach of the internet we need to talk about how hateful ideologies come into being, what allows them to flourish. And I have to say that although internet platforms have a reach and spread that other media don't have, print media and broadcast media are not without their share of responsibility."

When the story broke across the mainstream news media, the New Zealand government quickly banned domestic outlets from showing the video, deeming the material "objectionable". The prime minister, Jacinda Ardern, went further when she vowed to never say the gunman's name.

Many global news outlets followed that same approach, voluntarily choosing not to show the video, images of the perpetrator or identify him by name.

"These people need to be accountable for their actions. And although some of them have come out with words of condolences and some messages of support, please, thanks but no thanks. Cheap messages of support are not something that we need," said Majanni.

"We need radical change. We need new laws to protect Muslims from Islamophobia. Because the reality is you [the media] have contributed to the Islamophobic climate in Australia and New Zealand and around the world. Your words, your actions are complicit."

[screengrab/Al Jazeera]

Source: Al Jazeera News