AfriForum questions hate speech ruling by Press Ombudsman

AfriForum expressed its concern over the ruling by the Press Ombudsman’s Appeals Committee in the case between Verashni Pillay and AfriForum. In its ruling, which was published today, the Committee argued that an article that had been published on Huffington Post SA does not constitute hate speech.

In the article, Could it be time to deny white men the franchise?, it was argued that white men had too much power and that consequently they had to be stripped of their voting rights and their property be redistributed. The Appeals Committee had to rule in this after the Press Ombudsman earlier this year had ruled that the article had indeed constituted hate speech. Pillay has since resigned as editor of Huffington Post SA, but has also appealed against the ruling.

Ernst Roets, Deputy CEO of AfriForum, says that the organisation will study the ruling to reflect on further possible actions. He says, however, that there are already certain obvious problems with the ruling, which include:

  • The test for hate speech was not applied properly. The Appeals Committee found that the article had not constituted hate speech, among other because chances were slim for white men to be stripped of their voting rights. Roets explains that the possibility of something occurring does not form part of the test for hate speech.
  • The Appeals Committee found that the article does not come down to discrimination against white men as white men had been portrayed as “superhuman, powerful and dominant” and that white men had not been referred to in a derogatory manner. Roets says that white men were not just portrayed as superhuman, but rather inhumane in their ability and determination to oppress other people. “It was by no means meant as a compliment. In the context of the article the word ‘demonic’ would have been more descriptive than the Appeals Committee’s word choice of ‘superhuman’.”
  • The fact that the article argued that white men’s properties should be expropriated was not considered properly in the ruling.

Roets says that Pillay’s legal representative argued during the hearing that white men indeed had “disproportionate power” and that this should be taken into consideration in the decision whether or not the article constituted hate speech. It seems as if the ruling indeed relied on this argument.

“This suggestion is exceptionally worrisome. The Jews in Germany, the Armenians and Greeks in Anatolia, the Muslims in Serbia and the Tutsis in Rwanda were all minority groups who were generally more affluent than the majority. These groups all fell victim to genocide and ethnic cleansing because they were targeted for their affluence or rather their so-called ‘disproportionate power’, among others. History has proven that minority groups who are more affluent than the majority should in actual fact enjoy more protection. To argue that white men have no reason to complain because they have too much power, is to argue that most victims of genocide or ethnic cleansing in the past century before their prosecution also had no reason to complain about the fact that they were targeted in public.”

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