Twelve months imprisonment. That was the verdict in March of this year. Michael C. had sent a series of emails containing death threats to New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern. Now the verdict has been overturned. On Wednesday, an appeals court concluded that there was a miscarriage of justice in the case. The hook was alcohol. The question was whether the jury knew C.'s intoxication was relevant to his defense. The "Guardian" quotes him from police interviews with the sentences: "To be completely honest: I don't remember sending any emails. I was totally drunk, so it's possible that I did it could."
In order to be found guilty, prosecutors had to prove that C. not only sent the death threats, but also intended the recipient to take them seriously. The court therefore ruled that "states of intoxication can be taken into account when assessing whether a defendant had the required intent". This was not made clear to the jury. In its reasoning, the court therefore assumed that there was a miscarriage of justice and overturned the conviction. A retrial was not ordered.
C. had sent a series of emails to government officials over a period of four months. According to the "Guardian", there were 88 messages in which he described the addressees as "criminals" and "terrorists". The original presiding judge had described the emails as attacking the "roots of our democracy", including several death threats made against Prime Minister Ardern.
"We can definitely say that between, say, August and November of last year, the level of misogynist attacks on women in the public, including MPs, increased on an almost daily basis," Kate Hannah of The Disinformation Project told The Guardian in this spring. Hannah deals with the spread of disinformation and dangerous and hateful comments online. The content of this abuse has its roots in traditional and conservative images of women and in classic misogyny. The tone is becoming increasingly vulgar and sharper. Hannah is quoted as saying that misogyny is not just about misogyny, but also about the control and punishment of women who challenge male dominance.
The New Zealand women MPs and Prime Minister share these experiences with women politicians around the world. A 2018 Interparliamentary Union survey of 123 female MPs in EU member states shows that around 58 percent of those surveyed have been the target of sexist online attacks on social media. And almost 47 percent said they had received death threats or threats of rape or beatings.
Campaigns of disinformation can also be observed again and again in election campaigns, for example in that of Donald Trump against Hillary Clinton in 2016. The "Tagesschau" quotes Anna-Lena von Hodenberg, Managing Director of HateAid, the advice center for those affected by digital violence in Germany. She sees such gender-specific disinformation and its consequences as "an attempt to force women back into the private sphere". This ranges from claims that a woman "slept her way up" to her position to allegations that working mothers neglect their own children.
Sources: "Guardian" (I), "Guardian" (II), "RNZ", "Tagesschau", Interparliamentary Union, "Spiegel"