South African Jews seek to uphold hate speech law


JOHANNESBURG, Dec. 6 (JTA) — A Muslim radio station is asking a court to overturn a section of the broadcasters’ code of conduct that prohibits hate speech.

In a case brought before the Johannesburg High Court, which has not yet delivered a ruling, the station said the section of the broadcasters’ code should be revoked because it is too broad and limits freedom of expression.

Radio 786 brought the case after the South African Jewish Board of Deputies lodged a complaint against the station for airing a program that dealt with the ideology of Zionism and how it resulted in the creation of the Jewish state.

Appearing on the program was Yacoub Zaki, a historian at the Muslim Institute in London.

During the broadcast, Zaki said, “I accept that 1 million-plus Jews died during the Second World War, but I dispute the fact that they were murdered, that they were killed by gassing.

“These people died, like other people in the camps, from infectious diseases, particularly typhus,” he said.

Section 2(a) states in part that broadcasters shall not air any material that is indecent or offensive to public morals, or is offensive to the religious convictions or feelings of any section of the population.

The board of deputies contends that the section is a reasonable and justifiable limitation on the freedom of expression as provided for in the country’s constitution.

In a statement, the board said setting aside section 2(a) would permit hate speech to be broadcast in South Africa.

“We maintain that Radio 786 has attempted to disguise classic anti-Semitic racism and Holocaust denial under the guise of opposition to the political ideology of Zionism,” the statement said.

For its part, the radio station charged that the section was “put in place during apartheid days and is too broad. There are other clauses in the constitution which protect citizens from hate speech.”

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