Comedians have united to fight a proposed bill that could see them face as much as ten years in prison for their jokes, reports City Press.
A draft version of the proposed Prevention and Combating of Hate Crimes and Hate Speech Bill was released for public comment last week by Justice Minister Michael Masutha.
The bill proposes heavy fines and a maximum jail term of ten years for anyone convicted of showing bias, prejudice or intolerance on the grounds of race, colour, sex, gender (and gender identity), sexual orientation, religion, belief, culture, language, nationality, birth, disability, HIV status, occupation or trade, albinism and ethnic or social origin.
But, according to City Press, comedians are not happy about the bill and have criticised it for being “too broad and very restrictive”.
Speaking to the paper, Jason Goliath said he feared how hate speech would be defined and how authorities would differentiate between hate speech and personal opinion.
“What comedians do on stage compared with what people like Penny Sparrow, for example, say, shows a definite difference between freedom of speech and hate speech. We do it in the name of fun,” he said.
But comedian Tol Ass Mo, whose real name is Mongezi Mahlangu, is in favour of the bill, claiming that too many people have simply escaped with a slap on the wrist for what could be seen as hate speech.
“I refer to people like Penny Sparrow, who was (originally) fined R150 000 for calling black people ‘monkeys’, and Mcebo Dlamini – the former president of the students’ representative council at the University of the Witwatersrand – who said he loved Adolf Hitler. These comments were offensive and inappropriate. Anyone should be able to contest or take people to court for using hate speech,” he told City Press.
Speaking about the matter on 702 recently, John Vlismas said that he believed comedy should not be categorised with deliberate hate speech.
“I think that we need to take this very seriously. Comedy is a place where there is provocation on purpose. A show is a place where people have elected to suspend their disbelief and be entertained. I just don’t think it’s the same as being at a braai and being hateful or being in the office. I don’t really know that it applies as strongly to comedians as to a Penny Sparrow for example,” he said.