The Online Safety Bill is consistent with the Constitutional requirement to protect people in terms of their rights.
This was stated by Fiji Human Rights and Anti-Discrimination Director Ashwin Raj during his submission on the Online Safety Bill to the parliamentary Standing Committee on Justice, Law and Human Rights yesterday.
Mr Raj said the State had a constitutional obligation to authorise justifiable limitations in the interests of protecting of the people.
He said this included the maintenance of the right to reputation, privacy, dignity, the right to be protected against advocacy of hatred including hate speech on any of the prohibited grounds of discrimination prescribed under section 26 of the Fijian Constitution.
Mr Raj said infraction of the right to privacy through the disclosure and abuse of personal data, cyberbullying and circulation of intimate visual recordings including images of victims of violence and unforeseen tragedies and calamities including those of children. The surge in advocacy of hatred
Through speech acts that are unabashedly misogynist, homophobic, and racist and exploit communal differences cannot under any circumstances be justified as legitimate democratic dissent through the exercise of freedom of expression.
“They all constitute ‘harm’ well beyond the narrow definition of ‘serious emotional distresses,” he said.
“It constitutes an assault on human dignity and the deprivation of the right to reputation and privacy and the right to be free from hatred.”
He said given the speed and scope of social media, criminally-punishable content was not being deleted in a timely manner or not deleted at all, let alone the possibility of a retraction.
Mr Raj said in a fundamental sense Fijians were failing in their constitutional responsibility of preventing attacks on human dignity regardless of race, religion, sexual orientation and other prohibited grounds of discrimination, privacy and the right to reputation.
“Therefore, a legislative action that strikes a careful balance between the legitimate interests of freedom of expression and the protection of reputation including the prevention from attacks on dignity and hate speeches with minimum legal ambiguity is necessary,” he said.
Mr Raj added that the Online Safety Bill, through the establishment of an Online Safety Commission, set out a transparent redress mechanism for those that are most vulnerable and susceptible to abuse and violence on the social media including children and those who suffer from mental incapacity.