Stop fanning flames

POLITICIANS have been told to stop fanning the flames of racial and communal thinking to win votes.

These were the words of Fiji Human Rights and Anti-Discrimination Commission’s director who also said, there was a need for a national conversation that was above politics, race and religion.

Speaking at the Citizens’ Constitutional Forum organised Equal at the Mic concert to celebrate the International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination at Ratu Sukuna Park in Suva yesterday, Mr Raj said we, as a nation and as individuals, must strive to combat hate speech.

“Moreso now, as we prepare for the national election this year. There should be no space for prejudicial discourses that can lead to racial or religious vilification,” he said.

“The media must play a constructive role in combating racist stereotypes and fostering cohesion rather than exploiting our differences.

“My humble plea to you all is to make a pledge today to unite against racism, speak out against hate speech, racial profiling and religious intolerance and to embrace inclusion and respect for diversity.

“To the politicians out there — it is time you stop fanning the flames of racial and communal thinking to win votes!”

He said while Fiji was undergoing a significant legal and political transformation to remove the vestiges of institutionalised racism, racism still manifested itself in the form of racist hate speeches.

“Our social media is saturated with material that promotes racial and religious vilification.”

Mr Raj said Fiji’s struggles for civil and political rights and the nation’s ability to enjoy social and economic rights had been marred by institutionalised racism, racial profiling and racist hate speeches.

He said hate speech in the guise of freedom of expression was not within the permissible narrative of the law.

Fiji’s Constitution and international law expressly prohibit hate speech, he added. “Neither should one right be preferentially framed to the detriment of another given the indivisibility of human rights and freedoms as well as the intersectional nature of discrimination.”

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