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Issues relating to Freedom of Expression and Hate Speech come under the spotlight

Monday, 07 November 2011

Hate Speech complaints and diverse public discussions regarding the South Gauteng High Court judgment regarding the singing of struggle song dubul’ibhunu prompt the SA Human Rights Commission to bring together ordinary South Africans, experts and other stakeholders into a national conversation.

Johannesburg- The SA Human Rights Commission Adv. Lawrence Mushwana today launched the Commission’s National Dialogue Series on Freedom of Expression and
Hate Speech.

Adv. Mushwana says the purpose of the dialogue series is to provide South Africans with a platform to articulate their feelings, thoughts and ideas on how the country can best address the complex issues relating to freedom of expression and hate speech.

"The Commission has for some time been in a conversation with itself and other stakeholders on how to use the facilitative power of its mandate to provide leadership on how the country can engage with the challenges around Freedom of Expression and Hate Speech,” he said.

In order to capture the essence of this dialogue the Commission decided that the theme for the dialogue is: ‘Transition blindspots: navigating the boundaries between freedom of expression and hate speech in acknowledging, accepting and respecting our diversity in shaping our common destiny/vision as South Africans.'

This theme is premised on the observation that while the Constitution of the Republic has clearly provided a set of guidelines on how the ideal of a society built on human rights values can be achieved, the experience of the last seventeen years since the dawn of democracy seem to suggest that indeed there were a few blindspots that the crafters of the Constitution might have overlooked.


The Commission is however not suggesting that the Constitutional dispensation is in anyway inadequate in terms of its provision for a human rights framework, yet the very nature of social and political transition requires an approach that is embedded in the social fabric and history of society, taking into cognisance the possibility of social conflict should one set of views or group interest prevail over others.


Adv. Mushwana added that the Commission has in recent times also had to intervene in complaints relating to freedom of expression and hate speech that have been brought before it. And after considering the challenges these complaints and their systemic nature, including recent developments such as the South Gauteng High Court (Equality Court) judgment in the matter between Afriforum and the ANC Youth League President Mr Julius Malema, the Commission came to a conclusion that these issues are so complex that they warrant a discussion that extends beyond the courts.


It is the view of the Commission that the judgment and subsequent national commentary relating to it has certainly put into perspective, serious questions about social values as well as the extend to and limitations of using adversarial institutional mechanisms like the courts to mediate and attempt to determine or define morality in society.


Therefore, as an institution that has a mandate to strengthen constitutional democracy, the Commission came to a conclusion that these issues could be best addressed through dialogue where South Africans in their diversity will be provided with an opportunity to freely engage with each other.


In terms of the roll-out of the dialogue series, each Provincial Office of the Commission will convene a dialogue with ordinary people, community-based organisations, political parties, academic institutions, other Charter Nine Institutions, the judiciary and other stakeholders, in their respective Provinces. These Provincial Dialogues culminate into a national dialogue which will be held in Johannesburg on the occasion of the International Human Rights
Day on 09 December 2011.


The dates for the Provincial Dialogues are as follows:

Northern Cape, Kimberley on 09 November 2011; Free State, Bloemfontein on 17 November 2011; KwaZulu Natal, Durban on 18 November 2011; Eastern Cape, East London on 22 November 2011; Western Cape, Cape Town on 29 November 2011; Limpopo, Polokwane on 28 November 2011; Gauteng, Johannesburg on 25 November 2011; North West, Rustenburg on 29 November 2011; and Mpumalanga, Nelspruit on 30 November 2011.

Adv. Mushwana encouraged all South Africans to participate in the dialogues.
 
Ends
For further enquiries: Vincent Moaga on 073 562 9866
 
 

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