Do we want to embed ‘hate speech’ into our law?

?Hate speech? is the buzz word commonly used to threaten someone who has said something that someone else disagrees with. It is frequently used to intimidate.

It is not a legal term but someone accused of ?hate speech? may possibly fall foul of our laws against discrimination.

Discrimination is the unjust or prejudicial treatment of different categories of people or things, especially on the grounds of race, age, or sex and is illegal under the 1993 Human Rights Act.

Special mention is made of ethnic, religious or linguistic minority groups who ?shall not be denied the right, in community with other members of that minority, to enjoy the culture, to profess and practise the religion, or to use the language, of that minority.?

Section 61 of the 1993 Human Rights Act is about inciting racial disharmony. Quote.

 (1) It shall be unlawful for any person?

(a) to publish or distribute written matter which is threatening, abusive, or insulting, or to broadcast by means of radio or television or other electronic communication words which are threatening, abusive, or insulting; or

(b) to use in any public place as defined in section 2(1) of the Summary Offences Act 1981, or within the hearing of persons in any such public place, or at any meeting to which the public are invited or have access, words which are threatening, abusive, or insulting; or

(c) to use in any place words which are threatening, abusive, or insulting if the person using the words knew or ought to have known that the words were reasonably likely to be published in a newspaper, magazine, or periodical or broadcast by means of radio or television,? being matter or words likely to excite hostility against or bring into contempt any group of persons in or who may be coming to New Zealand on the ground of the colour, race, or ethnic or national origins of that group of persons.

(2) It shall not be a breach of subsection (1) to publish in a newspaper, magazine, or periodical or broadcast by means of radio or television?or other electronic communication?a report relating to the publication or distribution of matter by any person or the broadcast or use of words by any person, if the report of the matter or words accurately conveys the intention of the person who published or distributed the matter or broadcast or used the words.” End of quote

Section 63 of the 1993 Human Rights Act is about racial harassment. Quote.

(1) It shall be unlawful for any person to use language (whether written or spoken), or visual material, or physical behaviour that?

(a) expresses hostility against, or brings into contempt or ridicule, any other person on the ground of the colour, race, or ethnic or national origins of that person; and

(b) is hurtful or offensive to that other person (whether or not that is conveyed to the first-mentioned person); and

(c) is either repeated, or of such a significant nature, that it has a detrimental effect on that other person in respect of any of the areas to which this subsection is applied by subsection (2). end of quote

It is illegal to cause racial disharmony or racially harass.

But it is also illegal to deprive someone of their rights, or freedoms, as described in the 1990 Bill of Rights Act.

This Act says it is the right of every New Zealander to enjoy freedom of thought, conscience, religion and belief.

We are allowed to receive and impart information and opinions of any kind in any form.

We are allowed freedom of expression including seeking, receiving and imparting our opinions, in any form.

We are allowed to worship, observe, practice, teach ? either individually or communally, either in public or in private our beliefs.

There are no restrictions on meeting together, with the proviso that the meetings should be peaceable.

Deciding whether something is ?hate speech? includes considering whether:

  • It interferes with someone else?s freedom of thought conscience, religion or belief;
  • It is threatening, abusive or insulting;
  • It is hostile against, or bring into contempt or ridicule any other person on the grounds of the colour, race, or ethnic or national origins of that person;
  • It is hurtful or offensive to that person; and
  • It is repeated or of such a significant nature that it has a detrimental effect on that person?s rights.

The Greens are on a mission to embed ?hate speech? into New Zealand law and a newspaper reported last year that discussions were underway in government departments. Quote.

Police and the Ministry of Justice are considering new ways of recording crimes in an effort to combat racism.

But concerns have been raised over suppressing New Zealanders’ right to free speech.

Unlike in the UK, hate crime is not a specific offence in New Zealand.?

The Human Rights Act already includes provisions that cover both civil and criminal liability in relation to incitement of racial disharmony. However, there is a extremely high threshold – which in some instances requires the consent of the Attorney-General – before a prosecution can be laid.

The Harmful Digital Communications Act provides similar protections.

Attorney-General David Parker along with Justice Minister Andrew Little said earlier this year that a proposed change to the Bill of Rights would see Parliament required to review a law if the courts declare it to be inconsistent with the law.

The Human Rights Commission said it was “fully supportive” of the proposed changes. end quote.

“Hate speech? being illegal in the UK didn?t stop police abusing and hauling off a UK preacher simply because someone took offence at his Christian preaching. Freedom of religion is protected by the UK Human Rights Act too, but it certainly didn’t protect this man.

Let’s leave our extremely high threshold exactly where it is.

Embedding ?hate speech? in law will encourage the loudest ?haters? that the law is behind them when someone says or does something they don?t like. Our freedoms will take a back seat.

16%
×