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Guterres Meets New Zealand Mosque Victims Amid Inquiry into Massacre

Guterres Meets New Zealand Mosque Victims Amid Inquiry into Massacre

Tuesday, 14 May, 2019 - 05:15
United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, second from right, delivers a statement as he stands with Al Noor mosque Imam Gamal Fouda, right, during a visit to the mosque in Christchurch, New Zealand, Tuesday, May 14, 2019. (AP Photo/Mark Baker)
Asharq Al-Awsat
UN chief Antonio Guterres warned at a meeting with victims of the Christchurch mosque shootings Tuesday that hate speech was spreading online "like wildfire,” vowing the world body will lead efforts to resolve the problem.

Guterres spent about 30 minutes inside Al Noor mosque, one of two Muslim centers in the New Zealand city where a self-described white supremacist killed 51 people in a March 15 shooting that the attacker live-streamed on Facebook.

At the mosque, he talked to Muslim leaders and survivors of the attacks.

He then traveled to the Linwood mosque where he laid a wreath and also met with survivors.

The UN Secretary General is traveling the South Pacific to highlight the impact of climate change but said he also wanted to show his support for Christchurch's Muslim community during Ramadan.

"I know there are no words to relieve the hurt and sorrow and pain, but I wanted to come here personally to transmit love, support and total and complete admiration," he said.

He told victims of the worst mass shooting in modern New Zealand history that there had been "a dangerous upsurge in hatred" as social media was exploited to promote bigotry.

"Hate speech is spreading like wildfire in social media. We must extinguish it," the diplomat said.

"There is no room for hate speech -– online or offline."

His remarks come as New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern, who hosted Guterres when he arrived in Auckland on Sunday, embarks on her own quest to tame social media in Paris this week.

Ardern will co-host a meeting of world leaders and tech firms to promote a "Christchurch call" aimed at curbing online extremism.

She has been highly critical of social media giants in the wake of the Christchurch killings, saying they should be "taking ownership and responsibility over their platforms".

An inquiry into the massacre began hearing evidence on Monday.

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," 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.

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