The Director of the Human Rights and Anti-Discrimination Commission, Ashwin Raj has strongly condemned the use of inflammatory rhetoric on the social media that deliberately incites violence and advocates hatred and ill will between ethnic and religious groups under the guise of freedom of expression and democratic dissent.
Raj says the burning of mosques and shops in Taveuni and Labasa, and the open call for violence to convene outside parliament with any weapons whether it be knives, forks or matches to “erase these Muslims from Fiji” cannot be justified on any grounds as an act of democratic dissent through the exercise of free expression.
He says the constitutional right to freedom of speech, expression, thought, opinion, and publication does not protect incitement to cause harm or violence or the advocacy of hatred on prohibited grounds of discrimination.
The Commission implores on all Members of Parliament to be voices of moderation.
Raj says they must constructively engage with the body of law through the institution of parliament in expressing their dissent and divergent perspectives on the proposed amendments to the Land Bill or any other matters of national interest.
He says parliamentary privilege does not extend outside the parliamentary floor and must not be used at any time to justify the advocacy of hatred.
Raj says those who provide opinion on matters of national importance cannot rely on their mere defence that it is his or her opinion when that opinion contains factual inaccuracies or content which is maliciously intended to mislead Fijians.
He also says Members of Parliament must call out those who are resorting to inflammatory rhetoric with the intent of inciting violence and advocating ill will between ethnic and religious communities.
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