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Media companies agree guidelines for covering trial of alleged Christchurch gunman

All the major media organisations in New Zealand have agreed on a united approach to covering the trial of the man accused of the Christchurch terrorist attacks.

The Media Freedom Committee, representing TVNZ, Stuff, Mediaworks, NZ Herald owner NZME, and RNZ, today said a set of protocols would ensure that the media they represent would cover the upcoming trial "comprehensively and responsibly".

Brenton Tarrant is accused of 50 murders and 39 attempted murders at two mosques in Christchurch on March 15 this year. He is next due to appear in court on June 14. No trial date has yet been set.

The senior editors on the committee said they were aware that the accused "may attempt to use the trial as a platform to amplify white supremacist and/or terrorist views or ideology".

They added: "As editors we are mindful of the public interest in the trial, in New Zealand and internationally. We are also mindful of our role as the 'eyes and ears of the public' in the context of court reporting.

"In this instance, we acknowledge the particular importance of this function, given the many victims’ friends and families outside New Zealand who may otherwise be unable to engage in the trial process."

The guidelines issued today say that the media companies involved will:

* Limit any coverage of statements that actively champion white supremacist or terrorist ideology, including the alleged gunman's "manifesto".

* Not broadcast or report on any message, imagery, symbols or signals (including hand signals) made by the accused or his associates promoting or supporting white supremacist ideology.

* If images of such signals are unavoidable, the relevant parts of the image will be pixellated.

The companies said that they will wherever possible select experienced journalists to cover the trial.

The guidelines were signed by Miriyana Alexander of NZME and chair of the Media Freedom Committee, John Gillespie of TVNZ, Shayne Currie of NZME, Mark Stevens of Stuff, Paul Thompson of RNZ and Hal Crawford  of Mediaworks.

Thousands of flowers and tributes were left to remember victims of the Christchurch mosque attacks. Source: Getty