December 30 2019
“Beyond Politics of Hatred: Political Leaders Need to Take Action”
-NHRCK recommends political leaders including Speaker of National Assembly to develop measures to curb hate speech-
The National Human Rights Commission of Korea issued an opinion, calling on the Speaker of the National Assembly, leaders of political parties and Chairperson of the National Election Commission to enforce measures to combat hate speech, with a view to protecting the dignity and value of all human beings.
The NHRCK urges the Speaker of the National Assembly to issue a statement or a declaration affirming his commitment to self-regulating and preventing hate speech and seek ways to include provisions relating to hate speech in the code of ethics for lawmakers. Leaders of political parties are required to work on a declaration containing pledges to prevent and address hate speech and develop measures to deliver on their promises during elections, incorporate rules on preventing and banning hate speech in the code of conduct for political parties and provide training on hate speech and discrimination for party members. The NHRCK calls on the Chairperson of the National Election Commission to proactively address hateful comments made by candidates during election campaigns, including through expressing support for a self-regulatory approach to fighting hate speech.
The NHRCK constantly receives complaints relating to the rapid rise in hateful comments by politicians. According to the national survey on hate speech conducted by the NHRCK in 2019, six out of ten people believe that politicians including lawmakers are to blame for the spread of hatred in society. With concerns raised over frequent use of hate speech for political gains, the NHRCK notes it is necessary to understand the negative effects of hate speech and develop measures to tackle it.
The NHRCK further stresses the need for a firmer response to hate speech by politicians in light of the grave harm directly caused by it. It has an immediate effect on the speaker and targets and creates a ripple effect across society. The NHRCK cites three reasons why it believes hate speech should be regulated.
First, hate speech, which defines a specific group as inferior, filthy or dangerous, undermines the dignity of individuals belonging to the targeted group. The targets of hate speech can experience negative emotional consequences such as disparagement, fear, frustration, self-deprecation and self-negation.
Second, on one hand, the objects of hate speech are deprived of the opportunity to participate in a public sphere with fears and a diminished sense of self-respect. But on the other hand, hate speech may distort the public sphere itself by reinforcing prejudice against and negative perceptions of the targeted group. This, in turn, will weaken the fundamental values of democracy such as diversity and pluralism.
Lastly, hate speech, with its serious consequences, reinforces discrimination against the targeted group and perpetuates inequality. It tarnishes the reputation of individuals from a specific group and stokes fears among them, forcing them to internalize self-deprecation and self-negation and accept discriminatory treatment. By spreading negative perceptions towards and prejudice against a specific group of people, it reinforces discriminatory social institutions and undermines efforts to address inequality.
Meanwhile, some may argue that attempts to regulate hate speech will inevitably bump into freedom of expression. The NHRCK, however, notes that there should be limits to freedom of expression. It stresses the need to regulate hate speech, which denies the core values of human dignity and equality, to keep it from escalating into something more dangerous, such as incitement to discrimination, hostility and violence. It further states that regulating hate speech creates the effect of promoting freedom of expression by allowing people to express their views free from fear of discrimination.
The NHRCK also takes note of the fact that politicians are charged with preserving democratic values and making sophisticated policy decisions. They have a strong influence over projects that promote national interests and are thus required to assume a greater responsibility for curbing hate speech that instigates intolerance. Politicians have a duty to promote diversity and human rights, the fundamental values of a democracy, across different sectors of society as well as the political sphere.
The NHRCK hopes that the release of its opinion lays the foundation for building a society free from hatred and discrimination that respects the dignity and diversity of all. It will continue monitoring hate speech by politicians and explore ways to improve relevant rules and regulations.