Quote of the week

Excluding refugees from the right to work as private security providers simply because they are refugees will inevitably foster a climate of xenophobia which will be harmful to refugees and inconsistent with the overall vision of our Constitution. As a group that is by definition vulnerable, the impact of discrimination of this sort can be damaging in a significant way. In reaching this conclusion it is important to bear in mind that it is not only the social stigma which may result from such discrimination, but also the material impact that it may have on refugees.

Mokgoro J and O’Regan J (dissenting)
Union of Refugee Women and Others v Director, Private Security Industry Regulatory Authority and Others (CCT 39/06) [2006] ZACC 23
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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