Fewer than 20 people prosecuted for sharing Christchurch mosque attacks video

The Government is proposing a new criminal offence of hate speech protecting religion, gender, sexual identity and political opinion - just to name a few.

The tough new laws are a response to the Christchurch terror attacks, but although video of the shooting is still being shared online, Newshub can reveal very few people have been prosecuted.

March 15, 2019 was the most hatred New Zealand has ever seen, and our Muslim community still doesn't feel protected from the hate.

"Hate speech, it's up, up, up, up," one man in Christchurch told Newshub. 

New Zealand's darkest day was captured on a livestream by the terrorist. Even on Friday, Facebook and Twitter rushed to take down a new version. 

And Newshub can reveal that despite the original video being shared more than a million times, just seven people were prosecuted for sharing it the month of the attack. Police prosecuted four more that year and just five people in 2020.

Often that video accompanied hateful and extremist speech.

"Hateful speech that incites hatred is very real. It is harmful for those that experience it and groups that are the target of it," Justice Minister Kris Faafoi said on Friday. 

The Royal Commission into the attacks recommended strengthening our hate speech laws and the Government on Friday proposed those changes that it would make.

Hate speech against people for their religion, gender, political opinion, age or disability would be illegal under the Human Rights and Crimes Acts.

The Government also proposes making inciting hatred a crime with harsher penalties of up to three years in jail or $50,000 fine.

After prayers at Al Noor Mosque on Friday, there was hope.

"Yeah, I actually think that it would," one man told Newshub, when asked if having tougher hate speech laws would make him feel safer.

"It was one of the needs for New Zealand for a long time," another said. 

But not everyone Newshub spoke to is totally convinced. 

"Yeah, yeah sure - but again that's the thing, how do you define hate crime?"

Even the Justice Minister couldn't answer that, unable to say if a racist slur on the street could be prosecuted. 

"That depends on whether there was intent," Faafoi said. 

ACT leader David Seymour foresees implications. 

"What they're saying is that anyone who stirs up or maintains hatred could go to jail for three years and the difficulty with that is it's so subjective you'd get arbitrary and policitised prosecutions," he told Newshub. 

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said it would be "speech which actually, on any New Zealander's test, is just not something that is in keeping with our values".

The Justice Minister refused to say whether Kiwis are racist.

"I'm not answering that question. I love this country," he said. 

The country he loves has until August 6 to make submissions.

When the Justice Minister announced the proposed changes, he couldn't give specifics. But when you're seeking to legislate speech, you can't give answers as clear as mud.