LETTER: Freedom of expression should be nonnegotiable
People should have the right to display the old flag, even if it offends others
In your editorial of August 27 2019 (Apartheid flag has no place in new SA) you argue that the de facto banning of the old flag is a good thing.
I agree with the opinion that public display of the flag is unnecessary and opens wounds of the past. The old flag, for many people, represents a time of suffering and dehumanisation. And, although one cannot claim to know the contents of another human being’s mind, people who think openly displaying the old flag is acceptable probably do have something of a hankering for the past.
However, in a liberal democracy such as ours, freedom of expression should be nonnegotiable. And part of living in an open and free society such as SA is that sometimes you will be exposed to views or symbols which make you uncomfortable. And protecting the right to freedom of expression also means protecting the rights of those who have vile views.
Judge Mojapelo’s finding that it is also hate speech to display the old flag in your home should concern us all. The state, in the form of the judiciary, has no business telling you what you can and cannot display in your own home.
LISTEN | SA torn over banning of Apartheid-era flag
Also of concern is the almost universal acclaim for the ruling among the country’s leading journalists. We should not celebrate restrictions of speech or expression, even if it is speech or expression that we fundamentally disagree with.
It seems that many in this country have lost sight of the principle that one can disagree vehemently with a view being expressed, but still believe that the person expressing that view has a right to be heard. I would not be particularly sad if I never saw the old flag ever again, but other people should have the right to display it, even if it offends or makes others uncomfortable. That is one of the prices we pay for living in a free, open and democratic society.
Head of Campaigns