Wakeley church stabbing: Images of teen arrested over alleged terror attack still online despite being illegal

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Remy Varga
The Nightly
4 Min Read
Images showing the face of the alleged attacks remain online despite contravening NSW laws.
Images showing the face of the alleged attacks remain online despite contravening NSW laws. Credit: Unknown/X formerly Twitter

Images showing the face of the teenager arrested over the stabbing of an Assyrian bishop at a church in Sydney’s west remain on social media in contravention of State laws.

It comes as Bishop Mar Mari Emmanuel on Thursday spoke for the first time since the attack on Thursday and said he forgave the assailant who stabbed him during a live-streamed sermon on Monday night.

Vision and images clearly showing the 16-year-old’s face as he is held down by parishioners at the Christ the Good Shepherd Church in Wakeley has been viewed by hundreds of thousands of people.

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The Nightly also found videos that showed the teen’s face and violent footage of the alleged terror attack on Instagram, Facebook, YouTube and X, formerly known as Twitter.

The stabbing has been designated a terror attack by authorities and triggered a riot as about 2000 people descended on Wakeley and violently clashed with police for hours on Monday night, injuring 58 officers and damaging 51 vehicles.

Dani Mansour, the first person to be charged over the riot, was bailed under strict conditions at Blacktown Local Court on Thursday after being charged with rioting, affray and destroying or damaging property during a public disorder incident.

The 19-year-old from the western Sydney suburb of Doonside allegedly filmed himself kicking two police cars during the riot and uploaded the footage to Instagram.

Bishop Emmanuel has earned the moniker the “TikTok Bishop” due to his live-streamed sermons and has more than 40,000 followers on the platform and his videos collectively have about 30 million views.

News of the attack quickly spread overseas fuelled by religious influencers in Australia and overseas.

One video showing the teen’s face was shared on TikTok by an American account had been viewed nearly 170,000 times on Thursday afternoon. A video on another account, which has only posted six videos, has been viewed 116,000 times.

Under NSW laws, it is a criminal offence to identify a person under the age of 18 who is the subject of a criminal matter with the laws extending to online content.

The arrested teenager is 16 and under State laws, a 16-year-old can consent to being identified as being the subject of a criminal matter.

The teen has been in hospital since the alleged attack after severing his fingers and has yet to be charged or interviewed by police.

It is understood he did not consent to being identified and the teen’s family have rejected accusations he was motivated by ideology or terrorism.

Instead, they said he was prone to outbursts of anger and had seen multiple psychiatrists but had yet to be given a formal diagnosis.

In a video uploaded to the Christ the Good Shepherd Church’s social media accounts, Bishop Emmanuel reassured people he was recovering from his injuries and urged them not to “return to evil” and said he had forgiven his alleged attacker.

“I forgive whoever has done this act, and I say to him you’re my son. I love you and I will always pray for you,” he said.

“And whoever sent you to do this. I forgive them as well in Jesus’ mighty name. I have nothing in my heart, but love for everyone.”

NSW Premier Chris Minns said it was shocking that vision of the Wakely attack remained online as Sydney grappled with the fallout from the terror attack just days after a massacre claimed six lives at the Westfield shopping complex Bondi Junction in Sydney’s Eastern Suburbs.

“It’s more than 48 hours after these images were first projected on social media,” he said.

“And in some instances, for some companies, they’re still up there. I mean, that to me demonstrates a callous indifference to what these images are doing in our community.”

Communications Minister Michelle Rowland said social media platforms should be doing more to remove harmful content from their platforms.

“Governments and regulators do that through the laws and the powers that we exercise but the social media platforms need to do more,” she said.

eSafety Commissioner Julie Inman Grant has issued legal notices to X and Meta ordering the social media companies to remove content showing the stabbing.

“eSafety is satisfied with the steps Meta has taken in the last 24 hours to comply with the Class 1 notice issued on 16 April 2024,” a spokesman said.

“eSafety is currently assessing the extent to which X Corp has complied with the Class 1 notice issued on 16 April 2024, and whether further regulatory action may be required.”

A spokeswoman said TikTok had been sweeping content on its platform and removing videos that showed the teen’s face, which was in breach of the company’s guidelines.

A Meta spokeswoman said the content found by The Nightly had been removed and said teams of people were working to remove harmful vision and images from the platform.

“On Monday night, soon after the attack, we took steps to prevent possible copies or images of the incident being re-shared and are in contact with law enforcement and the eSafety Commissioner’s office to provide any necessary assistance,” she said.

The Nightly also approached X and Google, the owner of YouTube, for comment.

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