Rupert Murdoch’s 24-hour Sky News Australia has been pulled off the air by independently-owned Sky New Zealand. The decision was made after Murdoch’s channel refused to stop showing graphic video footage shot by the man who killed 49 people at two mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand, on Friday.
This was despite calls from the police urging anyone broadcasting the disturbing footage to stop circulating it. “Police are aware there is extremely distressing footage relating to the incident in Christchurch circulating online,” the New Zealand police said in a statement. “We would strongly urge that the link not be shared. We are working to have any footage removed.”
On Saturday, the New Zealand broadcaster announced the decision to pull the channel off the air. “We stand in support of our fellow New Zealanders and have made the decision to remove Sky News Australia from our platform until we are confident that the distressing footage from yesterday’s events will not be shared,” it said in a now-deleted Tweet.
Soon after in a new Tweet, the broadcaster changed its message saying, “We stand in support of our fellow New Zealanders and are working with our colleagues at @SkyNewsAust to ensure coverage doesn’t compromise ongoing investigations in NZ. We made the decision on Friday with Sky News Australia to replace their live news with sport.”
In a statement Friday, a Sky News Australia spokesman said: “Sky News in line with other broadcasters ran heavily edited footage that did not show the shootings or the victims.”
Sky News Australia didn’t air in New Zealand for five days, returning on Wednesday, March 20, according to Sky New Zealand. In the interim, the networks worked to change the perception created by Sky New Zealand that Sky News Australia had been forced off the air. Sky New Zealand emailed ThinkProgress on March 21, saying that it “would like to take the opportunity to correct statements made by us on Saturday.”
Sky New Zealand spokesperson Chris Major said in a statement that the networks decided together to pull the coverage shortly after the attacks. “It was a proactive and precautionary decision taken by both parties to ensure any live coverage or commentary taking place in Australia, outside of the NZ jurisdiction, did not compromise the NZ investigations and legal process,” the statement said.
Friday’s mass shooting was streamed to Facebook live video by the shooter for at least 17 minutes. YouTube, Reddit, Facebook, and Twitter have since been working to remove footage of the massacre, however, new copies of the video continue to be uploaded.
Officials in the U.K. have also called on the tech companies to stop the spread of this footage. “Online platforms have a responsibility not to do the terrorists’ work for them,” British Home Secretary Sajid Javid wrote in an article for The Daily Express on Saturday.
The alleged shooter was a self-described terrorist who wrote a manifesto about white supremacy, in which he praised President Donald Trump, calling the president a “symbol of renewed white identity and common purpose.” The manifesto also included mention of conservative pundits and other white supremacist killers.
But when asked whether he thought white supremacy was a growing danger around the world, Trump said he did not.
Meanwhile, Murdoch’s Fox News channel in the U.S. has aired several segments in which it positions conservatives as the victims, fearing the Friday massacre is being used as an attempt to limit their free speech.
“Already tonight, you are hearing calls in this country for curbs on free speech in response to the New Zealand massacre,” Fox host Tucker Carlson said Friday night. “Jeff Bezos’ newspaper wasted no time in blaming the entire thing [on] free flow of ideas that are, quote, ‘spreading hate.’ For the censorship class, more control is always the solution. Ban more people, squelch more ideas, go deplatform someone.”
Meanwhile, conservative radio host Rush Limbaugh promoted the theory that the whole event may be a false-flag perpetrated by someone on the left in order to blame conservatives.
CORRECTION: This article previously stated that Limbaugh was a radio host for Fox News. This has been updated to state he is a conservative radio host.
UPDATE (3/21/19): This piece has been updated to include a statement by Sky New Zealand correcting its original statement.