OPINION: Free speech must be carefully and firmly protected

The Government’s Minister of Justice Andrew Little has recently announced the Government will be reviewing our hate speech legislation in the wake of the horrific Christchurch terror attack.
In doing so he has also made a number of statements about what he deems to be hate speech and what he doesn’t.
For example, he has declared a pamphlet which promotes the abolition of the Maori seats as being ‘racist’ and an example of why there is a gap in our hate speech legislation. Putting aside my own views on this topic, people should have every right to hold such a view.
Just this week he has also said in a NZ Herald column that he thinks the definition of free speech is speech which ‘challenges the socially and culturally dominant, and enables society to progress’.
I firmly disagree with Andrew Little in this regard and am deeply concerned with the direction this Government is taking with one of our fundamental human rights.
Freedom of expression as a right does not distinguish between speech which is deemed ‘progressive’ and speech which is not.
Freedom of expression gives us all the right to speak our minds, whatever that view might be, however controversial it might be.
Of course this is not an unlimited freedom. Our freedoms must be used carefully and cannot be used to incite hateful violence.
However it does mean that people should be able to say things we disagree with, even views which we might find offensive.
Voltaire once said, “I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it.”
I fear that this Government is rushing through legislation which will reduce our freedoms, and make us less of a democratic society.
Simeon Brown 
MP for Pakuranga

 

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