Andrew Little plans to fast track a law review which could make hate speech illegal:
. . .He said the current law on hate speech was not thorough and strong enough and needed to change. . .
Isn’t it thorough enough and does it need to change?
The Free Speech Coalition disagrees:
The Free Speech Coalition will campaign against new laws to suppress traditional freedom of speech signalled by Justice Minister Andrew Little.
Constitutional lawyer, and Free Speech Coalition spokesperson, Stephen Franks says, “New Zealand already has clear laws against incitement of violence. We have a very new, uncertain, and far reaching law against digital harassment.”
“We have seen little or no effort by the government to enforce the existing law in the internet era, or even to explain it. Few New Zealanders know how our existing law works to criminalise genuinely hateful attempts to incite violence and contempt. We have seen instead repeated efforts to justify the granting of fresh powers like those used overseas to allow authorities to criminalise arguments and the expression of concern about issues where they want only one view to be expressed or heard.”
“The Government and the Human Rights Commission should focus on explaining and enforcing the existing law, not disgracefully seizing on the wave of sympathy from all decent New Zealanders, to rush through new restrictions on the opinions we may debate, express and research.”
“The term ‘hate speech’ is deliberately extreme. It has been designed to prejudice discussion. It exploits the decency of ordinary people. How could anyone not oppose ‘hate’? But as defined legally it generally means something that could upset someone. Overseas examples often just gives authorities the ability to say it means what they want it to mean from time to time. Recently, in Britain, their version of the law was used to bring criminal charges against an elderly woman who refused to use a transgender man’s preferred designation as a woman and insisted on referring to him as a man who wanted to use women’s toilets.”
David Farrar lists a few more of the perverse outcomes from hate speech laws in the UK which includes:
- A student was arrested for saying to a mounted police officer “Excuse me do you know your horse is gay”
- A teenager was arrested for barking at two labradors, as the owner was non-white
- A teenager was prosecuted for holding up a placard that described the Church of Scientology as a cult
- A man was charged with racially aggravated criminal damage for writing “Don’t forget the 1945 war” on a UKIP poster
- An Essex baker Daryl Barke was ordered to take down a poster promoting English bread with the slogan “none of that French rubbish”, because the police believed it would stir up racial hatred. . .
Emotions are understandably high after the Christchurch terror attack but that’s no reason to panic and rush.
Freedom of expression is a basic plank of democracy which must be protected from the borer of emotive and ill-defined constraints.