Criminal penalty for racist speech is ill-fated
THE African National Congress (ANC) chief whip’s office in Parliament stated recently that the party would "investigate creating a law or amending legislation to ensure that acts of racism and promotion of apartheid are criminalised and punishable by imprisonment".This was clearly in response to the outcry over former estate agent Penny Sparrow’s "monkey" comments on social media, and the alleged "racial undertones" in a tweet by economist Chris Hart. Yet section 16 of the Constitution guarantees to the people of SA freedom of expression, except — in this context — advocacy of racial hatred that amounts to incitement to cause harm.From this alone, we can conclude that the ANC’s intentions are ill-founded. The legal changes they hope to bring about will be, or, at least should eventually be, declared unconstitutional. The nature of freedom of expression is that people should be allowed to say unpopular, stupid, or even offensive things. If this were not so, then this guarantee need n...
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