Thursday, April 19, 2018

Proposed 'Hate Speech' Bill Would Destroy Free Speech In South Africa

I received the following newsletter from the ChristianView Network this past Monday (16 April). It is of great importance in view of massive free speech limitations that may be set in South Africa.


PROPOSED 'HATE SPEECH' BILL WOULD DESTROY FREE SPEECH IN SOUTH AFRICA 

The so-called 'Hate Crimes and Hate Speech Bill', which we hoped would be abandoned was sadly tabled in parliament on Friday 13th April.  While the 2018 version of the bill is a slight improvement on the 2017 version, it is still increases the risk of arbitrary and unjust harassment and prosecution to restrict legitimate free speech - especially for religious leaders and media professionals. While it claims to have some protection for the latter, the severity of the penalties and the vagueness of the defence, would make most likely to keep quiet on controversial issues to avoid prosecution. Read the bill at https://goo.gl/s8RYnm.

1. Despite the protests of numerous civil society organisations, the Bill still defines 'Hate speech' very broadly as "Any person who intentionally publishes, propagates or advocates anything or communicates to one or more persons in a manner that could reasonably be construed to demonstrate a clear intention to- (i) be harmful or to incite harm;..." That means firstly that they don't need to prove that it was hate speech but just that it can be "reasonably construed" that way - which leaves open the door for aggressive activists to accuse anyone they find offensive.  We argue that the definition of prohibited 'hate speech' should not be defined any more broadly than section 16(2) of the Bill of rights, which refers specifically 'advocacy of hatred' and not this vague definition which can mean anything a special interest group finds offensive.

2. Harm is still very broadly defined "''harm'' means any emotional, psychological, physical, social or economic harm;" - and just about anyone with hurt feelings can thus claim the right to prosecute someone else - potentially with criminal penalties.

3. The penalties include up to three years in jail (not just a civil penalty that may for example be paid by a media company).  While a journalist, scientist or religious leader may use section 4(2) as a defence, they are in most cases going to be intimidated by such severe penalties into silence.

4. They criminalise not only the person who says the words, but the journalist who publishes it, with threat of criminal penalty of up to 3 years in jail (section 6). 

5. For numerous offences which are already crimes, they introduce a system of disproportionate penalties thus creating unequal justice in favour of those who claim to be in a victim/ discriminated category.

6. In response to protests, they have added a clause 4(2) which appears to protect bona fide religious, artistic, media and scientific speech.
Nevertheless:
i. The wording of the artistic & religious protection clause is very vague and in fact contains a circular reference to the original definition of the offence. 

ii. We know that the activists pushing the 'hate speech & hate crimes' agenda will continue to push the boundaries of definition to try to undermine legitimate religious and scientific speech - because they have done so every year increasingly aggressively in every country, where such laws have been introduced.

iii. A stronger religious 'conscientious objection' clause was included in the Civil Union Act (so called 'Same-Sex Marriage), which the same people who are behind this bill have been campaigning to remove by a proposed Amendment Bill currently before parliament.

iv. The government promised conscientious objection on the abortion law (Termination of Pregnancy Act) and then deleted the clause at the last minute, claiming that the constitution gave adequate protection, and then withdrew the legal protection unlawfully in a contradictory regulation a year later.

While the concession of section 4(2) is an improvement on the previous version of the bill, the whole bill is extremely hazardous and unnecessary - as there is more than enough existing legislation which prohibits certain types of speech and existing penalties apply to various other types of crime. The justice system is failing to properly enforce existing law against real advocacy of hatred and incitement of violence and adding new law would distract from the real work that needs to be done.

The Hate Speech and Hate Crimes Bill makes people unequal before the law in that a crime against certain categories would be treated differently to others - depending on the ability of special interest lobby groups to promote their status as victims.  A minor offence against one person can then be punished much more seriously than a major offence against another person and justice becomes arbitrary.

The activists behind this bill can't be trusted. If you give them a finger, they will take your arm.  They are systematically working in and through multiple structures (Chapter 9 Institutions, the Department of Justice, lobby groups, media organisations towards destroying the intent of the Bill of Rights (free speech and equality before the law) using multiple pieces of legislation and court cases towards arbitrary justice and a totalitarian control of speech.

The bill is not yet open for public comment, but will be after it has been referred to the portfolio committee of parliament.  When it is, we must very strongly reject it.

https://goo.gl/s8RYnm
http://www.justice.gov.za/legislation/hcbill/B9-2018-HateCrimesBill.pdf

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