The Right2Know Campaign rejects the draft Prevention & Combating of Hate Crimes & Hate Speech Bill, which was open for public comment until this week. In our submission on the draft Bill, R2K made it clear that this draft Bill would criminalise freedom of expression and violate constitutional rights.
The draft Bill would make it a criminal offence to communicate, in any way, a message which insults a person or “brings into contempt or ridicule” any person or group of people. Doing so could result in a fine or a three-year jail sentence.
Draft Bill mistakes the branches for the roots
Instead of addressing the structural vestiges and institutional causes and factors that feed racism, patriarchy, xenophobia and related intolerances the draft Bill tries to criminalise individual behaviour.
As a measure against genuine discrimination, racism, xenophobia, homophobia and other forms of hateful expressions, we view this draft Bill as a ‘securitised’ response that violates the constitutional protections for freedom of expression, does nothing to address the root causes of the problem.
As an organisation, we stand against racism, xenophobia, misogyny, homophobia, transphobia and other forms of bigotry. This draft Bill ignores a range of current remedies and avenues open to victims of racism, sexism, homophobia, and other attacks on their dignity. The Equality Courts, for example, should be properly funded and properly advertised. Rather than strengthening the institutions set up to enforce and promote equality and justice, the draft Bill, if passed, will further undermine them.
Insulting those in power could now be ‘hate speech’
R2K believes this draft Bill will be used to criminalise the right to protest and criticise. “Bringing contempt and ridicule” onto politicians, or corporate executives, and other people of power is an important and necessary democratic activity. We reject any legislation that could be used to protect the powerful from criticism, even if harsh at times.
In our submission to the Department of Justice, we call for the ‘hate speech’ provisions of the Bill to be scrapped completely. Freedom of expression as enshrined in our constitution and Article 9 of the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights was hard won and must be defended at all times.
Read our full submission on this draft Bill here.