Aphiphany Forward-Taua (Executive-Director), Kelsey Lee (Senior Campaigner) and Thomas Doran (Advocacy Campaigner)
JustSpeak welcomes the opportunity to provide this submission on the Human Rights (Incitement on Ground of Religious Belief) Amendment Bill Submission. As a justice advocacy organisation with lived experience, we are frequently targeted by hate speech.
We believe everyone deserves to feel safe in our communities, and support the recommendations from the Royal Commission of Inquiry into the terrorist attacks on Christchurch masjidain. We encourage the Government to strengthen the laws around hate speech and hate crimes to keep everyone safe.
Key Recommendation 1
Aotearoa is strongest when everyone can be themselves, and live free from targeted discrimination. We recommend the Government include an express provision to protect New Zealand's LGBTQI+ community. The burning down of a rainbow youth building in Tauranga is an example of a hate crime that went without detection or prevention. This demonstrates a clear need for the Government to strengthen legislation to better protect our LGBTQI+ community.
Key Recommendation 2
We recommend the Government include an express provision to protect New Zealand's disabilities community. The Government must ensure everyone can fully participate in our society, this means listening to those in the disability community who are reporting hateful discrimination, especially important following the Covid-19 pandemic, where there was an obvious increase in hate speech directed towards people with disabilities.
Key Recommendation 3
Everyone regardless of their gender has the right to be respected and treated fairly. We recommend the Government also include an express provision to protect women. As seen recently with women in leadership, there is a significant amount of hate targeted towards them for simply doing their job.
Key Recommendation 4
We recommend that the Government establishes a register that actively records hate speech and hate crimes. Currently, there is no national register or database that keeps track of those who are responsible for the spread of hate speech, misinformation, and disinformation. This register could ensure that all moderate to serious forms of hate speech are recorded. This register will help us, as a society, to better understand what hate speech looks and sounds like.
Key Recommendation 5
We must all work together to heal the growing division in society, however, we do not think this can be done when someone is in prison. We recommend that the Government seek out educational alternatives to punishment by directing low to moderate forms of hate speech and crimes to programmes that help people unlearn harmful or concerning ideologies and behaviour.
Other key consideration
Freedom of expression, hate speech, and competing rights
The Government must recognise that freedom of speech when exercised harmfully can give way to hate speech, and at its worst, hate crimes. The right to freedom of expression and the dissemination of hate speech must be clearly defined and outlined in this bill. This will ensure that vulnerable communities are protected, and the response to any hate crimes is efficient and effective. We acknowledge that freedom of expression is an important right to protect, however, this must be balanced against other important rights set out under the Bill of Rights Act 1990, such as:
● Section 13: Freedom of thought, conscience and religion,
● Section 15: Manifestation of religion and belief,
● Section 16: Everyone has the right to peaceful assembly,
● Section 17: Freedom of association,
● Section 19: Freedom from discrimination, and
● Section 20: Rights of minorities.
Accordingly, we recommend that the Government clearly distinguishes the nuances between these competing rights.
The role of misinformation and disinformation
We strongly encourage the Government to consider the adverse effect of misinformation and disinformation; and the role these play in inciting dangerous or hateful behaviour. During the Covid-19 lockdowns, misinformation and disinformation had a significant role in disrupting the credibility of health and evidence-based information and announcements made by political leaders. This led to unprecedented hate speech towards political leaders and people who followed the directions of the Government. As such, we strongly urge the Government to define misinformation and disinformation in this bill so that it can be identified, intercepted and stopped before any further harm can be done.
Implement a framework
We recommend the inclusion of a framework in the legislation to help guide legal practitioners (e.g. judges, lawyers, police) in identifying the calibre of seriousness concerning hate speech and/or hate crimes. We know that hate speech and hate crimes are difficult to ascertain and identify, but also know that at its most extreme level, hate crimes can result in loss of life.
Strengthening our response to the internet and social media
We know that hate speech occurs on various local, national, and international websites and social media platforms. In 2021, Richard Jacobs posted a video on Youtube, threatening to kill specific people and calling for a ‘race-war’. Although authorities promptly removed this video, it is still accessible on some websites located on the dark web. We encourage the Government to strengthen its response by establishing strategic international relationships with tech companies such as Meta. These relationships will allow the Government to proactively monitor and stop incidences of hate speech that increase the likelihood of escalating to a hate crime.
We do not believe that punitive measures such as prison are the solution to stopping people who disseminate hate speech and/or engage in hate crimes. Instead, we encourage the Government to look into examples where education has been used to provide people with a deeper understanding of why their behaviour is harmful, and how they can make better decisions and/or stop engaging in harmful behaviour.
While we are heartened to see that faith groups will be covered by this bill, we are deeply concerned the scope is too narrow. This legislation must be clear and robust to overcome the complexities of hate speech and hate crimes. We encourage the Government to include express statutory provisions to protect religious groups, and other minority groups who are not yet covered e.g., women, LGBTQI+ and the disabilities communities. We want to see the Government include clear mechanisms, definitions, and categories of hate speech and hate crimes. We believe every community targeted by hate deserves to be protected.
1. He whenua taurikura - New Zealands Hui on Countering Terrorism and Violent Extremism
2. MAI Journal Situation Report, Race-based hate crime in Aotearoa (Ngata et al., 2021): https://www.journal.mai.ac.nz/sites/default/files/Ngata.pdf
3. Hate speech in Aotearoa New Zealand: Reflecting and resisting - Kayli Taylor https://thedisinfoproject.org/2022/06/18/hate-speech-in-aotearoa-new-zealand-reflecti ng-and-resisting/
4. What I Wish People Understood About Misinformation and Māori - Tina Ngata https://tinangata.com/2020/11/15/what-i-wish-people-understood-about-misinformatio n-anThe rise of Māori MAGAd-maori/
5. The rise of Māori MAGA - Tina Ngata
https://e-tangata.co.nz/comment-and-analysis/the-rise-of-maori-maga/ 6. Understanding the Rise of the ‘Politics of Kindness’ in New Zealand- Dylan Asafo https://researchspace.auckland.ac.nz/bitstream/handle/2292/59706/'Kindness'_as_Vi olence_in_the_.pdf?sequence=1
7. The EU must combat disability hate speech and hate crime https://www.edf-feph.org/the-eu-must-combat-disability-hate-speech-and-hate-crime/
8. Story on the AM show November 21, 2022: Grant Robertson should understand 'chilling effect' of hate speech as rainbow community left out of proposed new laws - advocate
https://www.newshub.co.nz/home/politics/2022/11/grant-robertson-should-understand -chilling-effect-of-hate-speech-as-rainbow-community-left-out-of-proposed-new-laws advocate.html
9. RE: News story November 28, 2022: Hate speech laws needed as attacks on queer community rise - advocate
Hate speech laws needed as attacks on queer community rise - advocate (1news.co.nz)
10. MoJ Study: LGB+ community experiences higher levels of victimisation than the national average
11. NZ Herald 1 June 2021: Māori Party files IPCA complaint against police for response to racist threat
12. NZ Herald Story 22 April 2022: Bay of Plenty man who threatened Māori convicted under hate speech laws