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Hate Speech cannot be blanket under freedom of Expression: Raj

February 10, 2018 8:18 pm

Hate speech on social media is spiralling out of control, however, what is more troubling is the fact that Fijians are failing to understand its implications within the law.

Fiji Human Rights and Anti-Driscimation Commission Director, Ashwin Raj has come out strongly condemning those who fail to abide by the law especially lawyers who are supposed to uphold the law at all times.

Even the police are now promising to take a very strong stand against those creating and spreading mischief in the wider Fijian community.

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It’s easy to blanket hate speech under the guise of freedom of expression, however, whilst doing so Fijians are exposing themselves to defamation lawsuits.

“This is also about balancing freedom of expression which is guaranteed under the constitution with the rule of law. I think people need to be protected. The right to reputation, the right to dignity, the right to be free from hate speeches, these are fundamentally constitutionally guaranteed rights and it’s not about what the Fijian constitution says but it is also consistence with the international human rights law.”

This statement follows the recent controversy over defamatory tweets by Lawyer, Richard Naidu suggesting the Prime Minister Voreqe Bainimarama and his ruling FijiFirst party are behind the recent Hindu temple attacks.

FBC News made several attempts this week to get comments from Naidu on this matter, however no emails, calls or text messages were replied to.

The Human Right’s Director highlights the importance for Fijians to fully understand the law of freedom of expression as it also comes with responsibilities.

“All those people who seat on twitter or social media and make reckless statements without any substantiation. they make statements they don’t take any responsibility, they act too smart as if they know everything. They are doing un-repairable damage to this country because these are rich and powerful people. All they do is seat and divide the whole day, take to social media and run all kinds of statement without realizing the kind of damage it does to the people. Who pays the price for hate speech and advocacy of hatred? Ordinary folks and villages and communities. Who gets raped? Whose houses are burnt down? Who is affected the most? The poor. People who have had nothing to do with it. The rich and the powerful seat in their lofty spaces and run commentary because everything is a bloody joke to them.”

Raj says as we near elections, politicians will become increasingly desperate in their attempts to attract votes and influence voters.

Earlier this week SODELPA MP Mosese Bulitavu extensively shared a doctored fake video whilst ridiculing the prime minister.

Labour’s Aman Singh blatantly accused the prime minister of staging the temple attacks and NFP leader Biman Prasad retweeted and shared Richard Naidus irresponsible and seemingly defamatory comments with many others on line.

Raj says this sort of increasingly irresponsible behaviour makes it vital for the Police to take to task those who vilify, accuse, attack and defame individuals and groups on social media.

“It is worrying for us in the Police Force because hate speech could lead to other issues which at the end of the day we have to deal with. It could incite people to perform other criminal acts that at the end of the day Police will have to deal with. Yes we’re investigating some now and I have directed that we pick these up as there are a few cases that we can investigate and process it through the courts so that it can be a deterrent to others. Its worrying we’re building up to elections and we don’t want anything to spoil or disrupt the election process.”

Raj says all Fijians should seriously question themselves whether we want to continue with the history of racism in our country because violent opinions and words perpetuated on social media can easily turn into actual violence and that’s why all Fijians must urgently take the bold step to say no to racial and religious intolerance immediately.

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