A New Zealand lawmaker was given a security escort on Tuesday after threats against her by white supremacists opposed to her views on hate speech, a rare precaution in a country where politicians mingle freely with the public. A debate on hate speech has been raging in New Zealand since the mass shooting in Christchurch on March 15 by a suspected white supremacist that killed 51 people and wounded dozens. Green party lawmaker Golriz Ghahraman, a human rights lawyer who was born in Iran and came to New Zealand as a child refugee, has seen an escalation of threats against her in recent weeks. Ghahraman would now be accompanied by a security escort when she leaves parliament, she told reporters on Tuesday, as the police deemed the threats were serious enough to warrant the extra security. “It’s distressing to have secret white supremacist groups talking about you,” said Ghahraman, who is among a handful of parliamentarians from ethnic minority communities. “After Christchurch, New Zealand has asked us to be different. New Zealanders want us to debate issues robustly, but to keep personal attacks out of it. We have all learnt that words, including online posts, have consequences,” she told reporters in parliament. Ghahraman has called for hate speech to be monitored, infuriating opponents, some of whom have accused her of trying to curb freedom. Online threats have been more alarming. The media group Newshub gave details in a report on white supremacy of threats in private online groups against Ghahraman
“Hate speech is spreading and public discourse is being coarsened. Social media is being exploited as a platform for bigotry. We must all show solidarity in response to this dangerous upsurge in hatred,” United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said in a speech outside the mosque.
An inquiry into Christchurch’s mosques shooting massacre began hearing evidence on Monday, as New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern prepared to co-host a meeting in France that seeks global support to tackle online violence. A lone gunman killed 51 people at two mosques in Christchurch on March 15 while livestreaming the massacre on Facebook. It was New Zealand’s worst peace time shooting. New Zealand’s Royal Commission inquiry will look into the suspected gunman’s activities, use of social media and international connections, as well as whether there was inappropriate priority settings in counter terrorism resources. “The commission’s findings will help to ensure such an attack never happens here again,” Jacinda Ardern said in a statement announcing a second commissioner to the inquiry. The Royal Commission’s website said it would gather information until August. It will report its findings to the government on December 10. Some in the Muslim community called for better communication about the inquiry. “Many of us in the Muslim community have not received any information about the process for hearings…..so many of us in the community very much feel out of the loop,” said Wellington-based community advocate Guled Mire. “Ultimately, we want our voices to be heard and to no longer be ignored, so hopefully steps are taken to ensure information is directly communicated to members of the Muslim community.” The Royal Commission did not immediately respond to request for comment. Ardern is in Paris this week to co-chair a meeting with French President Emmanuel Macron on Wednesday
The UN chief António Guterres expressed his admiration for Jacinda Arden’s rapid and decisive response to the mass shootings, which saw the Government immediately take measures to significantly strengthen gun control legislation, and her call to prevent hate speech on social media and the Internet.