We live in a great country. We have Freedom of Expression, where a guy can paint a picture of our President’s private parts and another guy can deface it. Freedom of Speech so that a third of the population can condone it and another third condemn it. The other third…..well, they just don’t give a damn and hey, that their Freedom of Choice.
So let’s talk about this Freedom. Where does Freedom of Speech end and Hate Speech begin? Log onto any Social Media site that abounds with trolls (Yes, News24, I mean you) and call them out for their vitriol and you get the old chestnut, “I have Freedom of Speech”. Yes, you do. You have a right to your opinion and I have the right to be offended by it….. but where do we draw the line? When do we say that this is Freedom of Speech but that is Hate Speech? What qualifies as Hate speech? Deeply personal insults? Racial and Sexual slurs? Death Threats?
Are the above covered by Freedom of Speech? Is it ever okay to belittle and demean some-one in the name of “Freedom of Speech” or has it become a good excuse for bad behaviour? I am an ardent fan of SA Idols and am a member of the group page where racial slurs have become the norm in an effort to defend ‘the favourite”. The varying comments range from: “I hope a black/white wins this year” to “All you haterz of XXXXX can go kill yourselfs (sic)”. Now, is this not Hate Speech? Why, when I take umbrage to it, do I get told that they’re merely exercising their Freedom of Speech and why, when I exercise MY Freedom of Speech do I get made to feel like I’m suddenly the bad guy?
Wikipedia (gotta love it!) defines Hate Speech thus: “Hate speech is, outside the law, communication that vilifies a person or a group on the basis of color, disability, ethnicity, gender, nationality, race, religion, sexual orientation, or other characteristic.
In law, hate speech is any speech, gesture or conduct, writing, or display which is forbidden because it may incite violence or prejudicial action against or by a protected individual or group, or because it disparages or intimidates a protected individual or group. The law may identify a protected individual or a protected group by disability, ethnicity, gender, gender identity, nationality, religion, race, sexual orientation, or other characteristic.”
So, well….that means personal insults are out, Racial slurs are out, Sexual slurs out, fattie jokes (you know who you are!) are out and Death threats are so out. So what then would be defined as Freedom of Speech? Let’s ask Wikipedia again:
“Freedom of speech is the political right to communicate one's opinions and ideas via speech. The term freedom of expression is sometimes used synonymously, but includes any act of seeking, receiving and imparting information or ideas, regardless of the medium used. In practice, the right to freedom of speech is not absolute in any country and the right is commonly subject to limitations, as with libel, slander, obscenity, copyright violation and incitement to commit a crime.
The right to freedom of expression is recognized as a human right under Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and recognized in international human rights law in the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR). Article 19 of the ICCPR states that "[e]veryone shall have the right to hold opinions without interference" and "everyone shall have the right to freedom of expression; this right shall include freedom to seek, receive and impart information and ideas of all kinds, regardless of frontiers, either orally, in writing or in print, in the form of art, or through any other media of his choice". Article 19 goes on to say that the exercise of these rights carries "special duties and responsibilities" and may "therefore be subject to certain restrictions" when necessary "[f]or respect of the rights or reputation of others" or "[f]or the protection of national security or of public order (order public), or of public health or morals”
Ah, ‘commonly subject to limitations”. Aye, there’s the rub. The limitations listed would be regarded as “Hate speech”. Libel. Slander. Obscenity. Bad, bad, bad. Yet again, what I regard as obscenity is not necessarily what you regard as obscenity so……where do we draw the line?
Personally, I would like to think that most people have a common sense. A sense of the right thing to say at any given time and would know that certain things are just not said and just not done but clearly the Jessica Leandros’ and Steve Hofmeyr’s of this world have forgotten what their parents taught them.
Basically, what it boils done to is what is right and what isn’t. Use your common sense. If you wouldn’t want someone to say it to you, then don’t say it to them!
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