Self-restraint should rule free speech

Issue 365 March 15, 2017

The debate on hate speech and the need to have in place a tougher regime of zero tolerance continues to rage as feverish as hate speech itself; except that there are apparently some people who believe that freedom of speech should be open and without restraint. That such freedom would hurt an entire community and worse, make them retaliate is of no consequence to them.

An article that appeared in the ‘New Zealand Centre for Political Research’ Newsletter should engage New Zealanders – indeed every person who values peace and harmony – in a healthy discussion. An edited version of the article appears in this Section.

If multiculturalism has to survive and if New Zealand has to guard its image as the ‘Best Country in the World,’ there must be greater enforcement of the Bill of Rights. At the same time, racial attacks, condemnation of people on religious and ethnic issues should be stopped.

Limiting Freedom

Social media make it easy for anyone to publish anything to a potentially global audience. This is a huge boost for freedom of speech, and has led to a vast increase in the volume of material published. But when words and pictures move so rapidly across borders, conflict often results. Different nations have different notions of what may and may not be said.

Hate speech is, outside the law, communication that vilifies a person or a group based on colour, disability, ethnicity, gender, nationality, race, religion, sexual orientation, or other characteristics.

In most countries of the world, hate speech is any speech, gesture or conduct, writing, or display which is forbidden because it may incite violence or prejudicial action against or by a protected individual or group, or because it disparages or intimidates a protected individual or group. The law may identify a protected individual or a protected group by disability, ethnicity, gender, gender identity, nationality, religion, race, sexual orientation.

Freedom of expression should not get beyond reason and public sentiments.

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