Sharjah: New Zealand’s handling of the deadly March 15 shootings in Christchurch was “a textbook example” of how governments should communicate in emergencies, experts told the International Government Communication Forum 2019 (IGCF) in Sharjah on Wednesday.

During a panel session, Dr Abdullah Al Maghlouth, spokesman of Saudi Arabia’s Ministry of Media and director-general of the Centre for Government Communication, described New Zealand government’s communication as fast, reactive, compassionate and clear during the incident last week.

The Christchurch gun attacks on two mosques by a lone shooter killed 50 people and left dozens injured.

On Wednesday, Dr Al Maghlouth said he hoped nothing of that nature happens ever again, while also pointing out that government officials had communicated with the public during and after the attacks in a transparent and rapid manner.

The IGCF session was exploring the challenges facing government communications in the face of changing technology and an expectation of full transparency, among other themes.

Sir Craig Oliver, director of politics and communications for former UK Prime Minister David Cameron, said: “I think we’re getting to the heart of the discussion; we’re talking about situations in which governments are expected to be incredibly fast in their reaction. So the New Zealand situation was a textbook example of a government reacting very quickly and showing it cared for its people.”

In the immediate aftermath of the March 15 shootings, New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Arden took to Twitter to let citizens and the world know that the perpetrator and his acts had no place in her country, and reached out to migrant communities who had lost their loved ones saying “they are us”. She also spoke on traditional media and visited the affected people. New Zealand Police also provided a constant stream of updates and communication on social media, statements and press briefings.

On Wednesday, Mike Kujawski, a specialist in strategic communications and digital media engagement, also spoke as a panellist at the IGCF session. He pointed out, using examples in other countries, that it was not enough to launch informative campaigns on social media, saying that the public should also be made to understand the background and significance of any campaign. Kujawski said only then would most people be motivated to change their behaviour.

The session, titled ‘Challenging the Lack of Capacity in an Era of Change Communication’, was moderated by Muntaha Al Ramahi, a TV host for Al Arabiya news. The IGCF, which ends on Thursday, has been organised annually by Sharjah Government Media Bureau since 2012. The two-day event is currently in its eight edition.