Radio hate speech case continues

2012-12-11 21:12


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Cape Town - A Muslim community radio station broadcast about Zionism in 1998 went beyond the borders of freedom of expression, the Broadcasting Complaints Commission of SA (BCCSA) heard on Tuesday.

"The broadcast is an absolute classic stereotype of an anti-Semitic world view... Jews are talked about as a tight, monolithic conspiracy where each individual is treated as though behalf of the whole," sociology lecturer David Hirsh told the complaints and compliance committee in Cape Town.

"This broadcast is hostile to Israel... it hates Israel because of prior racist hatred of Jews."

Hirsh said these views could inspire hatred and human rights abuses.

The University of London lecturer was testifying on behalf of the SA Jewish Board of Deputies (SAJBD), which lodged a hate-speech complaint against Radio 786, over a broadcast on 8 May 1998.

The radio station broadcast a programme entitled "Zionism and the state of Israel - an in-depth analysis", featuring an interview with United Kingdom academic Yakub Zaki.

According to the SAJBD, the academic claimed, among other things, that Jews had brought about the Anglo-Boer war, conspired to steal South Africa's natural resources, controlled the banks of the world and invented the Holocaust.

It argued that Radio 786 was guilty of contravening the Broadcasting Code of Conduct, which prohibited the advocacy of hatred based on race, ethnicity, gender or religion, and that constituted incitement to cause harm.

Hirsh likened the denial of the Holocaust to English writer David Irving, who publicly denied that Nazi Germans killed millions of Jews in gas chambers during World War II.

In 2005 he was sentenced to three years in an Austrian jail under a statute that prevents Holocaust denial or belittlement of any Nazi atrocities.

The committee, headed by Wandile Tutani, had been tasked with hearing the merits of both the SAJBD's case and that of the Islamic Unity Convention (IUC), which holds the station's licence.

The hearing was the culmination of 14 years of court action and public hearings, with the matter twice reaching the Constitutional Court.

Both parties eventually agreed to forward the matter to a full hearing.

Although the IUC had yet to present its case, according to its website it was confident its stance against the "biggest pro-Israeli lobby force in Africa" would set a national precedent of protecting freedom of expression.

It based its case on section 16 of the Constitution, which allows everyone to receive or impart information or ideas, and the freedom of artistic creativity, academic and scientific research.

These rights did not extend to propaganda for war, incitement of imminent violence, and advocacy of hatred.

"Our intention is to stop the SAJBD from criminalising criticism of Israel and Zionism. The SAJBD must not think they can invoke anti-Semitism and Holocaust denial as a means to demonise criticism of Israel’s crimes."

The Freedom of Expression Institute (FXI) had asked to play a part in the proceedings, but Tutani said no FXI representatives were present.

The SAJBD objected to the request, saying the FXI did not have anything new to add to the case and may not be impartial because the IUC asked it to join.

The hearing would resume on Wednesday, and continue until Friday.

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