Brenton Tarrant, charged for murder in relation to the mosque attacks, is led into the dock for his appearance in the Christchurch district court on Saturday. POOL-Reuters
Reuters

Social media users have condemned Western tabloid newspapers for their coverage of the New Zealand mosque attacks and their attempts to ‘humanise’ the gunman.

At least 49 people were killed and 40 others were injured in a twin attack by Australian suspect Brenton Tarrant, 28, who gunned down dozens of worshippers in the New Zealand district of Christchurch.

Labelling him an “angelic boy who grew into an evil far-right mass killer” British tabloid, the Daily Mirror, released a photo of Tarrant as a young boy and described him as “a likeable and dedicated personal trainer running free athletic programmes for kids”.

Reacting to the coverage, British columnist Owen Jones condemned the tabloid’s coverage saying it had displaced the focus from the victims to the perpetrator, who he called a terrorist.

British creative director Nooruddean Choudry also criticised the same headline saying that while the victims were ignored, Tarrant was being humanised.

British journalist and BBC presenter Shaimaa Khalil also criticised the same headline and condemned the Daily Mail for the use of similar language, referring to Tarrant as the “ordinary white man” in its headline on Friday.

On Saturday, the Daily Mail reported that the gunman’s grandmother had reacted in disbelief to the incident, describing Tarrant as “a good boy”.

While the majority of social media reactions have focused on British newspapers, Australian tabloids were also criticised for their coverage.

Like the Daily Mirror and Daily Mail, several Australian tabloids focused on the gunman, rather than the killings and included images taken from the livestream of the incident, despite requests from New Zealand and Australian police to not share the footage.

The front page of the West Australian showed images of the attack and reported Tarrant’s description of himself as: “Just an ordinary White man, 28 years old. Born in Australia to a working class, low income family.”

The page was shared in a now-deleted tweet by the paper’s senior editor Anthony De Ceglie, reported the Guardian.

Similarly, the Australian Courier Mail called the gunman a “working class madman”, while the Herald Sun’s front page read: “Livestream slaughter”.

The Australian suspect, who appeared in a Christchurch District Court on Saturday, was charged with murder. He was remanded without a plea until his next appearance in the South Island city’s High Court on April 5.

Handcuffed, shoeless, and wearing a white prison suit, Tarrant grinned but did not speak as he flashed an upside-down “okay” signal, a symbol used by white power groups across the globe.

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