With the latest draft of the hate crimes and hate speech bill before Parliament, with comment closing on 25 May, there are some important considerations to take note of. It is not in line with international best practice and may create a chilling effect, writes Anton Harber.
Criticism of the government sometimes takes on a racial tone, whether intended or not. Certainly, the ANC has often felt that some of its critics are motivated by racism of the “What do you expect from them?” kind. Many ANC leaders have also believed that elements of the media are more critical of them than they were of the white apartheid government.
Will the new Prevention and Combating of Hate Crimes and Hate Speech Bill allow the government to lash out at such critics? Will it help prevent racism? Will it have a chilling effect on criticism and news reporting on controversial topics? Our current government has been tolerant of its critics, even the most vociferous, but will it remain so when it is in danger of losing power? Or will the next government be more eager to go after its critics? These are some of the questions at the heart of the bill currently before Parliament.