The government says existing laws do not protect a person’s gender identity, sexual orientation, religion or disability.
The New Zealand government announced on Friday that it plans to strengthen the country’s hate speech laws and increase sanctions to incite hatred and discrimination, in response to the attack by a white supremacist in Christchurch two years ago killed 51 Muslims.
The move comes after a Royal Commission of Inquiry into the March 15, 2019 attack recommended changes to the laws on hate speech and hate crimes, which it said were a deterrent. weak for people targeting religious groups and other minority groups.
New Zealand’s hate speech laws have resulted in only one prosecution and two civil claims, the Royal Commission noted.
“Protecting our right to freedom of expression by balancing this right with protections against ‘hate speech’ is something that requires careful consideration and a wide range of input,” said Justice Minister Kris Faafoi, at a press conference.
“Building social cohesion, inclusion and valuing diversity can also be a powerful means of counteracting the actions of those seeking to spread or consolidate discrimination and hatred.”
The government proposed new crimes for hate speech which it said would be clearer and more effective.
Under the proposal, a person who “arouses, maintains or normalizes hatred” would intentionally break the law if he did so by threatening, abusing or insulting, even inciting violence, the government said.
The punishment for these crimes would be increased to a maximum of three years in prison or a fine of up to NZ $ 50,000 ($ 35,000). Currently, the punishment is up to NZ $ 7,000 ($ 4,950) or three months in prison.
He also proposed provisions to protect trans, diverse and intersex people from discrimination. Current laws only target speech that “excites hostility” against a person or group because of their color, race, or ethnicity.
“Question on freedom of expression”
The proposals are already open for public consultation.
According to Radio New Zealand, the government is also considering changing the language and expanding the provisions on incitement to the Human Rights Act.
But it has not yet been decided which groups will be added.
Currently, the only act considered a crime is the use of speech that will “excite hostility” or “put contempt” on a person or group for their color, race, or ethnicity. But gender identity, sexual orientation, religion, or disability are not considered protected.
Australian Brenton Tarrant killed 51 people and injured dozens when he opened fire on Muslim faithful at two mosques in Christchurch, broadcasting the atrocity live on Facebook shortly after posting a racist manifesto online,
With the support of the entire political spectrum, New Zealand quickly banned the sale of the high-capacity semi-automatic weapons used by Tarrant.
In August 2020, a judge sentenced Tarrant to life imprisonment without parole, the first time a New Zealand court has handed down this ruling.
But changes in hate speech laws have been more controversial as some political parties said it would impede freedom of expression.
“Government-proposed hate speech laws are a great victory for the cancellation of culture and will create an even more divided society,” New Zealand ACT party leader David Seymour said in a statement .