What is Freedom of Expression and what is Hate Speech?

Section 16 of the Constitution protects freedom of expression. Expression includes words and other expressive activities. The right also protects ideas that will offend or disturb people and therefore includes a duty to be tolerant of others. The Courts ultimately decide what kind of expression the Constitution prohibits. Freedom of Expression includes the right to receive information and unrestricted ideas. One of the goals of protecting these rights is to promote open, responsive and accountable governance.

The right to freedom of expression is limited in some circumstances – as long as the limits are reasonable and justifiable in an open and democratic society. Hate speech challenges the dignity of others and causes harm and is not protected by the Constitution. Section 16 outlines different forms of hate speech which The Promotion of Equality and Prevention of Unfair Discrimination Act elaborates on. You can use the Equality Court to challenge hate speech and the Court can make a variety of orders.

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