24 November, 2020

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A Law Against Hate Speech Is Urgently Required

By R.M.B Senanayake

R.M.B. Senanayake

R.M.B. Senanayake

The problem of devolution of power and the resolution of the grievances of the Tamil people have run into opposition from 1956 onwards Firstly it was the Buddhist monks who opposed the B.C Pact and the Dudley Senanayake -Chelveynayagam Agreement of 1965. There were also K.M.P Rajaratne and a motly crowd of oliticians and civil society activits who opposed rectifying any grievances of the Tamil people. They stirred up communal and religious hatred against the Tamil and Christian minorities. Recently the previous regime allowed organized groups to stir up hatred against the Muslims. All these campaigns stirring up hatred against minorities is due to the lack of a law in our criminal law which curbs hate speech although ther is a provision in our Penal Code. Articles 18 and 19 guarantee the rights to freedom of religion and expression.

True that there should be freedom of expression which is recognized by the UN Declaration of Human Rights. But even the UN Declaration of Human Rights recognizes the need to impose restrictions on free speech in the interests of others. “In the exercise of his rights and freedoms, everyone shall be subject only to such limitations as are determined by law solely for the purpose of securing due recognition and respect for the rights and freedoms of others and of meeting the just requirements of morality, public order and the general welfare in a democratic society”.

However, it is the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) which gives guidance on the relationship between freedom of expression and the prohibition against incitement to hatred or “hate speech”. Article 19 provides that:

Gnanasara

Recently the previous regime allowed organized groups to stir up hatred against the Muslims.

“ 1. Everyone shall have the right to hold opinions without interference.

2. Everyone should have the right to freedom of expression; this right shall include freedom to seek, receive and impart information and ideas regardless of frontiers, either orally, in writing or in print, in the form of art, or through any other media of his choice.

3. The exercise of the rights provided for in paragraph 2 of this Article carries with it special duties and responsibilities. It may therefore be subject to certain restrictions, but these shall only be such as are provided by law and are necessary:

a. For the respect of the rights and reputations of others;

b. For the protection of national security or of public order (ordre public), or of public health or morals.”

This is qualified by Article 20 as follows:

“1. Any propaganda for war shall be prohibited by law.

2. Any advocacy of national, racial or religious hatred that constitutes incitement to discrimination, hostility or violence shall be prohibited by law.”

The wording of Article 20 also implies a not simply advocacy but advocacy of national, racial or religious hatred; not simply such advocacy, but one that constitutes incitement; not simply such incitement, but one that is related to discrimination, hostility or violence”. The injunction inherent in Article 20 is further advanced by the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial 5 Discrimination (CERD) which adds (in regard to racial discrimination only) another Article pertinent to the discussion: Article 4, as follows:

“States Parties condemn all propaganda and all organizations which are based on ideas or theories of superiority of one race or group of persons of one color or ethnic origin, or which attempt to justify or promote racial hatred and discrimination in any form, and undertake to adopt immediate and positive measures designed to eradicate all incitement to, or acts of such discrimination and, to this end, with due regard to the principles embodied in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the rights expressly set forth in Article 5 of the Convention, inter alia:

a) Shall declare an offence punishable by all dissemination of ideas based on racial superiority or hatred, incitement to racial discrimination, as well as all acts of violence or incitement to such acts against any race or group of persons of another colour or ethnic origin, and also the provision of any assistance to racist activities, including the financing thereof;

b) Shall declare illegal and prohibit organizations, and also organized and all other propaganda activities, which promote and incite racial discrimination, and shall recognize participation in such organizations or activities as an offence punishable by law;

c) Shall not permit public authorities or public institutions, national or local, to promote or incite racial discrimination.”

A perusal of the laws from the region reveals that a large number of countries and territories covered by this study have laws which can be used, directly or indirectly, to prohibit hate speech in its various manifestations, although the terminology on the issue may vary. They include: Afghanistan, Armenia, Australia, Azerbaijan, Bahrain, Bangladesh, Bhutan, Brunei, Cambodia, Fiji, India, Indonesia, Iraq, Iran, Israel, Japan, Kazakhstan, Kiribati, Kyrgyzstan, Lao People‟s Democratic Republic (PDR), Malaysia, Maldives, Mongolia, Myanmar, New Zealand, Pakistan, People‟s Republic of China, Philippines, Qatar, Republic of Korea, Saudi Arabia, Singapore, Sri Lanka, Syria, Tajikistan, Thailand, Timor Leste, Tonga, Turkmenistan, Tuvalu, United Arab Emirates (UAE), Uzbekistan, Vanuatu, Vietnam and Yemen.

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Latest comments

  • 9
    0

    Problem is not that we dont have enough laws to handle the situation but the implementation of law and good governance.We can make more laws in this regards but I am sure despotic governments will use them only to suppress the freedom of speach

    • 4
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      R.M.B Senanayake –

      Good to have the Laea in the Books…

      However those who regularly trespass, especially the criminal laws need to be prosecuted.

      Make it a steady implementation..

      • 5
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        Free speech is a human value and not a provocative tool. Insulting other races and their religious beliefs including hate speeches cannot be justified as free speech. Politicians and religious leaders should not take advantage of the democratic freedom of speech to arouse the masses on racial/religious line and instigate communal and religious hatred.

        Maithree Government has many urgent things to do and one of them is to bring strict laws against hate speech and prosecute those who spread communal/religious hatred by creating havoc among different communities in the country.

        Another most important task is to change the present Anti-minority racist/communal culture and politics in Sri Lanka and make it a true muti-cultural united secular Sri Lankan society where the minorities are treated as equal citizens of the country and not as aliens.

  • 7
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    Dear Mr Senanayake,
    you have articulated it well. If the west can pass such laws, why not us srilankens ? This long due issue has not been neglected by MR for the last few years. Along the fact that hate speech delivered by pseudo monk- Ghansara costed the life and damage of Aluthgama people shold be more than enough to bring such laws. Not being limited to that each and everyone that hold public speeches should be adequately warned about the vocabulary they should use. That can then be exemplary to the youth of the nation.

    • 2
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      It should be
      “This long due issue has been neglected by MR (not addressed) for the last few years”

    • 2
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      There are few words that are kept away from public speeches in Germany even today.

      This is common to UK too – Public speeches should no means be like the gossipy talks at the fences. Sociologists, psychologists, social workers have to work with reglious leaders by structuring all these – can only help rebuilding a civlized society.

      BBS monks and the like religous men or women should be given adequate lectures in terms of public speeches. Those words contained in Ghanasara’s vocabularly should be closely studied and given him adequate warnings not to use them again. This can be made in a form of displaying his kind of speeches in the letures planned to rehablitate him. May the attention of University dons in sociology/literiture be come forward giving the best advices to heal those aggresive men such as Ghansara. Even giving lessions to derobe can help if every effort towards him would fall in vain.

  • 2
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    We do not have existing laws which deals with Hate Speech??? Bless my bark… then it has to be implemented without further ado… I thought there are laws, but they were not used to take actions against violators…

  • 3
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    As far as I know there are laws against inciting racial hatred. The constitution it self has given the right for all the other Sri Lankans(Tamil, Muslims, Burghers to live, worship as they wish practice their customs freely and without being obstructed. Violating the constitution is illegal. This BBS idiot should be put in jail this time for inciting violence if he dances too much, in a way, he is making everyone remember why the rest of the MARA henchmen to be sent to parliament. He will be eroding the rest of the vote base for UPFA. other alternative is these idiots should be exposed for his, illicit affairs, having kids(two kids), having wives so on. Media should openly criticize his actions.
    Has no shame, since there were only 200 people at the Hyde park rally.

  • 3
    2

    Yes, lets ban hate speech. Lets start with the koran which is about a phedophile prophet preaching mass genocide agaispeople who dont believe in his fairy tale

    • 0
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      Anton Richards

      Yours is the quintessential hate speech. It is not based on any thing but your hatred. If you have objectively read the Qur-an or read the comments of many great men like Mahatma Gandhi, Thomas carlyle, Lamartine and even present day scholars like Karen Armstrong, you will not spew such hatred.

  • 2
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    The comment by Anton Richards shows the pitfalls to be avoided. Freedom of religion is protected in our Constitution as well as in the UN Declaration on Human Rights. No the hate speech must be such as intended to create hate and disaffection and not a mere statement of some saying in the Koran or any other text. The right to criticize a religion honestly but without the intent to create disaffection should be the test. I think some of the western media are taking criticism of Islam too far.

    • 0
      2

      If the right to criticise religion can be established and defended that would go a long way towards establishing a civilized and democratic society.

  • 2
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    Yes.this law has to be implemented for the good of the nation.also any body who incite racial hatred must be behind bars.Singapore enjoys excellent race relations in spite of many races because of strict laws.The founding father Lee introduced these laws which worked and made Singapore as one of the richest countries.Also introduce laws against social enemies like drug peddlers as this is a great menace to the society.It is death sentence in Singapore if you carry above certain amount of drug.Please clean up altogether.it is a fact that drug is freely available in Sri Lanka.lee says that one man cannot be allowed to spoil the lives of few lives.

  • 0
    0

    Who ever obstructs bringing the culprits to law and threatens the victims impliedly or directly to stop going to court or inciting to destroy evidence in this regard to be severy punished. New punushmint to be imposed for this kind of offences giving serious consideration to this matter. People with secular thougts to be appointed to the drafting committee.

  • 2
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    BBS was the mouth piece of Mahinda and Gota and nothing else.

  • 0
    0

    What ever be the articulation, there are difficulties in sifting hate speech from free speech. Once an article was published in a European Paper that affected the sensitivities of the Islamic community. The Monarch of that country too was of the opinion that it is within the bounds of free speech.

    Children, must be taught the value of mutual respect. If this is our watch-word then we would exercise a kind of self-censorship in the process making free speech. We need laws but laws alone don’t provide a solution to every case.

  • 0
    0

    A couple of notable absentees from the list at the end of the article: France and the US.

    In the US freedom of speech trumps hate-speech. Some Muslims in France allege that hate speech and hate crimes against them are not treated as seriously as those against Jews or other non-Muslims.

    Who gets to decide where words of hatred turn in to hateful acts? And why should hate crimes and speech be defined as those against religious or ethnic groups only? What about women, gay people, the disabled etc.? These are also groups that are vulnerable and should be protected from the bigotry of xenophobes.

    I would like to see the police in Sri Lanka enforce the laws on the books, and the parliament expand laws pertaining to hate speech and crimes to cover all such vulnerable groups.

  • 0
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    Anton Richards

    Yours is the archetypal hate speech. It is based on nothing but your hatred of Islam and its prophet. If you have read the Qur-an objectively or read the comments of eminent men such as Mahatma Gandhi, Thomas Carlyle, Lamartine, Bernard Shaw etc just to name few, or present day scholars such as Karen Armstrong, you will not spew such hatred.

  • 0
    0

    Truth is never hate speech. There isnt a single falsehood in what I said. I saddened to see everyone jumping to defend a phedophile and a book that advocate s genocide

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