Quote of the week

[Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro] possesses, however, few of his predecessor’s resources, lacking not just oil revenue but Chávez’s surplus of charisma, humour and political skill. Maduro, unable to end the crisis, has increasingly sided with the privileged classes against the masses; his security forces are regularly dispatched into barrios to repress militants under the guise of fighting crime. Having lost its majority in Congress, the government, fearing it can’t win at the polls the way Chávez did, cancelled gubernatorial elections that had been set for December last year (though they now appear to be on again). Maduro has convened an assembly to write a new constitution, supposedly with the objective of institutionalising the power of social movements, though it is unlikely to lessen the country’s polarisation.

Greg Grandin
London Review of Books
13 December 2006

Hate speech on the internet

An interesting article in the Mail & Guardian discusses the issue of hate speech on online websites in the wake of an Internet discussion on Zimbabwe on the SABC news website. The discussion soon degenerated into hate speech. The site quotes a lawyer who says:

the constitutional definition of hate speech is very tight and that the context of the publication and the words used must be extreme and actively incite harm to be considered hate speech.

Of course, the definition of hate speech in the Promotion of Equality and Prevention of Unfair discrimination Act is much broader than in section 16(2). Nevertheless, the constitutional definition of hate speech is not nearly as broad as most people think.

Many people confuse hate speech with hurtful speech. It is not hate speech to be called racial names or to be called a “moffie“. What is required is something more, one needs utterances that “constitute incitement to cause harm” based on race, ethnicity, gender or religion. The harm that is to be incited does not have to constitute physical harm but it must at least constitute serious emotional harm.

And there must be “incitement”.

If one therefore merely says something hurtful to someone else, it will not constitute hate speech as defined in the Constitution. One has to say something that constitutes incitement to cause at least serious emotional harm to a person or a group.

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