Whaleoil transcript: Golriz Ghahraman & Stephen Franks on free speech

Credit: SonovaMin

**Editor’s note: This transcript is of the edited version of the full interview. In the full interview (which we do not have access to) Stephen pointed out that Tarrant described himself as a Greenie and an eco-fascist.

Transcriber?s note on media bias: it is worth watching the video to capture the frequency of Golriz using eye contact to appeal to Newshub Nation interviewer Emma Jolliff who obliges by intervening three times to redirect or close down.

Newshub Nation

The government is reviewing our hate speech laws in the wake of the Christchurch attacks. Justice minister Andrew Little says the current legislation is very narrow, only applying to inciting racial disharmony, it doesn?t cover other areas like religion, gender or sexual orientation. Lawyers Golriz Ghahraman and Stephen Franks join me now to discuss the issues. Thank you both for joining us. First question for you Golriz, how do you define hate speech, in fact?

Golriz

Yeah, so one of the problems, and I think the minister?s recognized this, is that we don?t have a very workable um sort of, aha, effective definition of hate speech as it would apply to the modern world. And most countries, you know, modern democracies in Europe, Canada has really effective definitions, and the starting point is we actually need a definition. Um, we will need to set the bar very high, because we want to protect free speech um and? and it can?t be about, you know, whether you?ve offended someone, it needs to be about actual harm., which it is in other jurisdictions?

Newshub Nation

How do you determine that? When actually these things are often in the eye of the beholder.

Golriz

Yeah, so the definition of hate speech is a little bit like definitions of other limitations to free speech that already apply in our law to protect individuals. So, defamation exists, for example, and it?s about harm. So, you can?t lie about a person to damage their reputation, make then unsafe, make them unemployable, for example. Those are very real harms that can come from speech and we have legislated against that for individuals. What we are saying is the same type of thing should apply to groups. In France they actually define hate speech very similarly to defamation as they do in other parts of Europe, so it?s about whether a third-party um would be moved, and this is the standard in New Zealand in terms of our jurisprudence, whether a third party would find the speech, um, to be such that they would become hostile toward that group. It?s not about how the group feels.

Newshub Nation

Okay, okay. So, Stephen?

Stephen

Well, no, it?s an objective view of how they would feel?

Golriz

No, it?s an objective view of harm.

Stephen

It?s putting yourself into their shoes. But the essence of what?s missing is that truth is no defence. In hate speech? in defamation, truth is an absolute defence. And that?s because of the view that ah we all ought to be able to challenge and be offensive and call out beliefs and views that are? are bad. I mean there?s? there?s absolutely no doubt that for many Catholics exposing priests pederasty has been offensive. Under all the tests of hate speech, it?s hate speech because it makes them feel bad, and ought to make them feel bad.

Golriz

Well I disagree because it?

Stephen

Well it has been?

Golriz

?pointing out truthful things about individuals within that group wouldn?t come under hate speech. If you say all Catholics?.

Stephen

No, it?s a group?

Golriz

If you say all paedophiles?

Stephen

No? you?re?

Golriz

?that would start to come under the definition.

Stephen

No. You?re inventing the law there. What is actually says is if it makes the group offended. In Australia, in Britain? there?s? there?s 3,000 police investigations last year in Britain? of things like a woman on Twitter who refused to call a transgender man a woman and called him a man. She was arrested, breastfeeding woman, kept in prison overnight, lost her computer ? hasn?t got it back. The police are obliged under these laws because someone is offended to go and? and? tackle them.

Golriz

But the point is this is a conversation we need to be having because our hate speech laws aren?t actually fit for purpose right now. We know?

Stephen

But that?s just jargon. What do you mean, not fit? tell me? give me an example of something that should be banned that isn?t? Would you? would you ban?

Golriz

Okay. No, no? and we should?

Newshub Nation

[Transcriber?s note: Stephen?s important question for Golriz is redirected back to him by NN which avoids Golriz answering.] Can you give us an example actually? Is there any form of expression you would consider hate speech or unacceptable?

Stephen

I think? I think the ah? the NZ? the Human Rights Act has a very good definition. The Section 61?

Golriz

But it doesn?t cover all groups.

Stephen

Well it doesn?t? it doesn?t?

Golriz

Do you think that race should be in it?

Stephen

?it doesn?t cover religion, for example, because? because religion is something that should be argued about.

Golriz

We are not talking about religion.

Stephen

Yes, you are.

Golriz

Religious groups.

Stephen

No.

Golriz

So, the people that ascribe to that religious group. You can always criticise a religion?

Stephen

No you can?t.

Golriz

?you just can?t say?

Stephen

You can?t. If it makes them feel bad, you can?t. Go and read the law.

Golriz

Well I have?

Stephen

Go and read what?s happened in Australia, read what?s happened in the UK?

Golriz

No, I have. It?s about? it?s about inciting hostility in a third party, that?s our law.

Stephen

Well it?s automatically hostile when you say? this is a? this is a ghastly religion.

Golriz

In a third party, not in the group.

Newshub Nation

Stephen, do you think there is any safe way of legislating against hate speech?

Stephen

Well we can see that there isn?t from what?s happened. We can see what?s happened in Australia?

Golriz

Well let?s look at an example that we can have?

Stephen

Let?s look at an example. In the Bible, the Bible says ?stone adulterers? the Bible says ?kill gays? should we?

Golriz

No, let?s look at? the terror attacks?

Stephen

Let me finish, let me finish?

Golriz

?let?s look at the terror attack because that?s actually the context we are operating.

Newshub Nation

That?s one faith we are talking about.

Golriz

Yeah.

Stephen

Yeah? but? that?s an incitement. So is the Koran which says ?slaughter infidels? ?slaughter apostates,? um deal in vicious ways which in fact have been effective. A quarter of the world is operating?

Golriz

That?s why the rainbow community should be protected?

Stephen

A quarter of the world is operating under essentially some version of these hateful rules that are in? in books that are sacred. I don?t think they should be banned. I think with the? the? the response to stuff you consider foul is more speech and persuasion. Not banning it.

Golriz

Okay. Well that?s coming from a very privileged place so let?s actually look at what?s happening in NZ right now. We?ve had an outpouring of absolute love and unity across the country. New Zealanders have told us they don?t want to live in a divisive hateful world. We know Facebook and Twitter are making billions off of us, and they don?t regulate hate speech. We also know that a man? ah?

Stephen

You?re absolutely making that up.

Golriz

No.

Stephen

Have you seen how much they spend on trying to get rid of hate speech?

Newshub Nation

[Transcriber?s note: Interrupts to avoid Golriz answering Stephen?s question for the second time.] So, an example of a man um standing outside a Manawatu mosque wearing a swastika tee-shirt, so effectively an anti-Muslim sentiment just days after the attack that killed 50 people, is that okay? How does that get dealt with?

Stephen

Well actually that is really offensive, and I think probably would be covered by existing law. Because it is? if it?s intended to incite hatred, ridicule and contempt against a?

Golriz

Against a racial group.

Stephen

?against a racial group. If it?s a religion, often religious? the power of? of bad religion has only been defeated by satire, by ridicule, by exposure. And that?s just something? if? our law has always said ?sticks and stones will break my bones but words will never hurt??

Golriz

Okay, so, would you legalise defamation?

Stephen

Which? which?

Golriz

Because that?s a limitation on free speech.

Stephen

Which?

Golriz

Would you legalise incitement?

Newshub Nation

One at a time. Could we allow one person to speak at a time please?

Stephen

Would you allow the privacy commissioner? would you allow the privacy commissioner to supress your record, to suppress your past? Our privacy commissioner wants to ban?

Newshub Nation

Okay, let?s move away from personal attacks please. Ah, back to another example. Titahi Bay RSA planned to have a Muslim prayer in its civic Anzac service, the social media comments have been so vitriolic that police have taken half a dozen names also. How should that be dealt with, do you think, Stephen?

Stephen

I think it?s? I think it?s like saying ?how do you deal with all those horrible comments about that very gracious gesture that the prime minister made when she wore a veil to the commemorations. She was saying to people ?we are standing with you, you are victims and we are with you, we are not hostile?, and it was a wonderful thing to do. The viciousness about it speaks for itself. The horrible people on Facebook who are condemning her speak for themselves. In our society we have?

Newshub Nation

So, we just let that happen?

Golriz

But people aren?t allowed to go the service because it?s unsafe. The police said it?s too unsafe now because of these comments.

Stephen

They haven?t said that at all.

Golriz

No, they have. [Visual appeal to NN]

Newshub Nation

They have.

 Golriz

That?s actually what they have said. So, it has made people unsafe.

Newshub Nation

Wouldn?t addressing hate speech laws actually catch hate before it spills over into hate crime? We are talking about how you would prevent something like that.

Stephen

Well if there was any evidence of that it would be wonderful. I mean it?s something that?

Golriz

How about the words UN Migration Pact being written on the butt of his gun??

Newshub Nation

We are going to have to leave it there. All right, thank you very much Golriz Ghahraman and Stephen Franks on the topic of hate speech. Thanks for joining us.

Golriz Ghahraman & Stephen Franks on The Nation
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