Bill not about political ambition, says Raj

Fiji Human Rights and Anti-Discrimination Commission director Ashwin Raj. Picture: JONACANI LALAKOBAU/FILE

THE new Online Safety Bill has nothing to do with political ambition. Stating this, the director of the Fiji Human Rights and Anti- Discrimination Commission, Ashwin Raj, told the parliamentary Standing Committee on Justice, Law and Human Rights yesterday that the State had a constitutional obligation to protect its citizens and it is doing so by drafting the Bill.

In his submission, Mr Raj said social media was an important platform, but it was also a catalyst for enormous damage.

“When someone dies in a car accident and someone decided to take a picture with the victim’s limb. It has got nothing to do with the next elections. People should realise it has nothing to do with political
ambition,” Mr Raj said.

“It is about basic human decency, we all should be sitting in this room unanimously supporting this Bill because it is the right thing to do. These are our children, it can happen to any one of us.”

He claimed many Fijians were now facing the full brunt of irresponsible social media behaviour.

“The problem is social media has been largely an unregulated space and was left to its own devices, and so it just turned out to be the animal that it is, this is our own creation of a monster,” Mr Raj said.

Mr Raj said the privacy of Fijians should not be at the disposal of administrators of social media and with the Online Safety Bill being drafted, Fiji was taking a step in the right direction.

He said Fijians were allowed to speak their mind as long as it was within the permissible narrative of the law, the moment it exceeds that, descending into hate speech and racial vilification, it cannot be justified.

“No one can say to me that this is about democratic dissent, this is about robbing people of their dignity, their right to privacy, their right to reputation, their right to retraction, their right to be free from attacks based on any other prohibited ground of discrimination,” he said.

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