This condemnation as well as other comments on the bill comes by way of a formal submission by the FMF, highlighting issues with the proposed Prevention and Combating of Hate Crimes and Hate Speech Bill.
The FMF seems particularly concerned about how comments will be interpreted and whether the proposed punishment equates to a restriction on freedom of speech. Under the the bill, the proposed crime of hate speech carries a sentence of up to three years in prison for a first offence, and up to ten years for a subsequent offence.
“The Constitution allows for the protection of only four specified characteristics – race, ethnicity, religion, gender – but the bill protects seventeen characteristics, including ‘culture’, ‘belief’, ‘occupation’, and ‘gender identity’. Protecting characteristics such as ‘belief’ and ‘occupation’ from ‘insults’ will have perverted effects, whereby South Africans will be jailed for having opinions which are allowable in every other democratic society in the world.”
“Something as harmless as saying ‘All politicians are thieving liars‘ or ‘All lawyers are blood-sucking parasites‘ is hate speech in terms of this bill.”
“The Hate Speech Bill, if passed unamended (especially without the inclusion of generous defences), will have a profound effect on our constitutional democracy. South Africa will become one of the few countries in the world where freedom of expression is regulated to this draconian extent.”
Other analysts have echoed the same concerns made by the FMF with Afriforum, Freedom of Religion South Africa (FOR SA), PEN SA, the Hate Crimes Working Group (HCWG), the DA and numerous online petitons having surfaced since bill was first proposed.
You can read the FMF’s full submission here.