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NFP wants Raj out

Aqela Susu And Nasik Swami
Thursday, December 28, 2017

THE National Federation Party has called for the removal of Fiji Human Rights and Anti-Discrimination Commission's director and Media Industry Development Authority chairperson, Ashwin Raj.

NFP leader Professor Biman Prasad made this statement after Mr Raj appeared on a television show focused on the theme of "hate speech on social media".

Prof Prasad claimed Mr Raj continued to over-extend himself both as the director of Human Rights and chair of the Media Industry Development Authority (MIDA).

"Obviously, he confuses himself on which hat he wears on any given day because if he was thinking rationally, instead of using public-funded air-time to "campaign" on hate speech on social media, he should have exemplified balance and advocated for a wider spread of opinions with more studio guests as per Schedule 1 of the Media Code of Ethics and Practice, of his own MIDA Act," he said.

"Even as the human rights director, he of all people should be the first to promote balanced dialogue, instead of hogging the airwaves to promote a skewed worldview on "deliberative democracy".

"The chair of the Fiji Human Rights and Anti-Discrimination Commission must remove Ashwin Raj immediately. Furthermore, the Prime Minister should remove him as the MIDA chair."

Prof Prasad also claimed Mr Raj failed to uphold his independence, "or at least try to show it in the public domain, and serious questions arise as to his competence for both roles — and his self-aggrandised continuous use of four-syllabled words is an indictment of his inability to communicate effectively.

"Ashwin Raj's advocate for laws to curb hate speech on social media is a thinly-veiled attempt to muzzle the negative publicity of this Government, and he should be speaking to Parliament with facts and figures, instead of hogging the airwaves to promote an unsolicited and tyrannical 'campaign' with no public mandate," he added.

In his response, Mr Raj said hate speech was an anathema to democracy.

"The honourable leader of NFP should use the same zeal to combating hate speeches and racial and religious vilification because of our history of institutionalised racism.

"Hate speeches are a manifestation of this history. So calling for my resignation, the fact that I hold two positions and making a mockery of my use of the English language will not change the fact that our social media is saturated with materials that promote racial and religious vilification.

"Our Constitution, international law and the UN Human Rights Commissioner are all calling for an end to hate speeches and racial and religious vilification."

Mr Raj said there was a reason freedom of expression had justifiable limitations not only in our Constitution, but international law too because everyone had the right to be free from hate speeches, have the right to reputation, the right to human dignity.

"Is honourable Prasad going to call for his resignation!

"Issuing daily statements calling for my resignation each time I stand up to racism, bigotry and other forms of prejudice will not change the culture of hate prevalent in our communities and the social media. Be bold enough to join the campaign against hate speeches."

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