‘Hate Speech Bill’ - a good idea? anele mngadi

2016-11-23 06:01

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THE issue of criminalisation of hate speech was recently open for public opinion before being made official.

The case of the Hate Speech Bill gives us an insight of the much asked question in policy making, “When can the government legitimately restrict our freedom by enforcing laws?”

The Hate Speech Bill came as result of recent hate speech incidents on social media such as that of Penny Sparrow calling black people “monkeys”.

I think we can all agree that statement was fallacious and unnecessary, but the government cannot respond to everything that happens with laws. The act of criminalising hate has the potential to undermine freedom of speech. Secondly, hate speech does not necessarily mean hate crime, hate speech is speech that attacks, threatens or insults a person or group for example if a person were to say “I hate lesbians”.

Hate crimes on the other hand are a typical act of violence motivated by prejudice, for example, the so-called “corrective rape”, which is a criminal offence. According to early philosophical thinker J.S. Mill freedom of speech or rather freedom of opinion is one of the many freedoms that are vital for societal progression.

The danger of suppressing ideas is that society runs the risk of suppressing the truth – freedom of speech should be allowed and merely causing offence is no ground for government intervention.

Applying this in the case of Sparrow, the Hate Speech Bill will not solve the problem, rather it is a form of censorship. Sparrow made an uneducated statement about black people, maybe government officials should use the resources to educate such people to a point of being repentant.

Another issue is how exactly do we measure hate speech to criminalise it? Diverging opinions about certain groups of people or a particular person, careless phrasing or just careless use of language can be deemed as hate speech – this bill leaves a lot to perception.

Lastly too much government control on the ground (with laws) can lead to highly a politicised country and we all know how those types of democracies turned out, especially in African countries.

I don’t not endorse the calling of black people “monkeys” or any other hate speech, the incident serves as an example and nothing more.

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