The Royal Commission’s report on the Christchurch terror attack has just been released. In response, the Government is ceasing on the opportunity: Jacinda Ardern has announced she wants to criminalise so-called “hate speech”.
Make no mistake, this is a big kahuna — the Government want to ram through laws just like we see in Britain — where you can be arrested for ‘offensive’ tweets, speeches, or emails. That’s why I’m emailing to ask you to step up with a donation, so we can mount a fight back.
“Hate Speech” vs “Hate Crime”
Don’t be comforted that the Government isn’t introducing a new “hate crime” offence per say. “Hate crimes” are when hatred of an enduring characteristic of a person’s identity is a motivating factor in an already criminalised offence. We already consider these kinds of factors as a part of sentencing.
Criminalising “hate speech” (what the Government is now planning) introduces an entirely new offence: the speech alone as the offending act, with no further harm required to be proven.
We say that limiting the freedoms of New Zealanders is a cowardly, short-sighted and pointless response to a terror attack designed to make this country more fearful and closed-minded.
The Government has been planning to legislate hate speech for a while, and the use of a national tragedy to cover this move makes it so much more difficult to motivate public opposition to restrictions on free speech.
The new offence will be based on inciting “racial or religious disharmony” including by intent to “stir up” or maintain “insulting communications”. Depending on the final wording of the section, we say that is a dangerously low threshold.
The UK has seen what happens when vague, far-reaching powers to police speech are implemented:
- a blogger is arrested and charged for causing “gross offence” for sharing a video of his dog doing a Nazi salute.
- a journalist is investigated by the Metropolitan Police for a comment made by his guest deemed racist.
- and 120,000 “non-crime hate incidents” are recorded, which put people’s jobs and livelihoods in jeopardy despite no crime being committed.
This isn’t dystopian fiction. This isn’t 1984. This is the reality of hate speech laws.
We have the opportunity to avoid this nightmare, but only if New Zealanders and our politicians get the message that criminalising speech will not make people safer.
We’ve now said several times that existing laws are perfectly adequate to deal with situations that can arise on this subject. There’s little doubt from the experience of the U.K. that there is huge potential for abuse. It doesn’t seems to occur to the Dear Leader & Co. that this is likely to be a double-edged sword that will cause many frivilous cases to be brought before the courts. The only beneficiaries will be lawyers. —Eds