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Correct solution to racism is not a legal one :Forum

Correct solution to racism is not a legal one :Forum

Source: Straits Times
Article Date: 29 Dec 2020

The author believes that members of a civil society must play their part to be conscious of what they say, and to remind others who may make racist statements that what they are doing is wrong.

Associate editor Chua Mui Hoong makes valid points in her commentary (Racism in Singapore: Time to listen to minorities' concerns, Dec 25). The use of racial stereotypes and racist statements do hurt victims - that much is not contentious.

Whether this sentiment is a product of "wokeism" is irrelevant - we as members of a civil society must play our part to be conscious of what we say, and to ensure that we remind others who may make racist statements that what they are doing is wrong.

However, to say that an action is wrong is not to say that it is illegal (which is what "violent" conduct is). Hurt feelings do not ipso facto justify punishment by the law. Therein lies the danger of using the word "violence" to describe racist speech which hurts the feelings of its subject.

Article 14 of the Constitution protects the individual's right to freedom of speech. There are, however, significant qualifications to this right (such as for defamation, contempt of court, public order and morality). These qualifications are exhaustive, and rightly so since they stand in opposition with the fundamental right to freedom of speech.

To say that racist speech constitutes "violence" is to say that it should be prohibited by law (rather than merely be socially disapproved of).

If the basis for classifying racist speech as "violence" is the hurt feelings of its victims, this would be the first step into eroding what's left of the right to freedom of speech.

The correct solution is not a legal one. A collective expression of disapproval and a robust discussion of this issue, as Ms Chua suggests, is the way to go.

Brent Lim Zi Jian


Source: Straits Times © Singapore Press Holdings Ltd. Permission required for reproduction.

 

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