Striking a balance: the free speech versus hate speech debate a comprehensive and comparative analysis of international and domestic law
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Within contemporary public debate (internationally and in Uganda), there is a difference of opinion between the understanding of the fundamentality, constitutionality and the scope of the right to freedom of speech and expression on one hand, and the harm, danger, injustice, implications, restriction and regulation of hate speech on the other. In the courts of opinion, there seems to be no balance or the prevailing balance is prejudiced and inclined to a one-sided quandary. The notion of free speech is one of the most contentious and debated issues throughout the ages. However, it is stated to be a universal and inalienable right, and of equal importance, inherent, and indivisible. Free speech stands at the heart of the public exchange of ideas and open debate. This study seeks to examine the hypothetical view by the defenders of free speech that the right should be free from any kind of restriction. This is a dilemma, when acknowledged that there exists danger and harm through hate speech. The weights on the balance in this paper demonstrate the need to attain a sense of balance at the contrasting concepts of free speech and hate speech. The study argues strongly for the protection of this right of free speech, and also shows the benefit of this right to the development and governance of a country, as it permits and tolerates constructive and critical ideas that sustain economic development. The study also examines the stringent anti-hate speech and other innuendo laws and policies that maliciously restrict the freedom of speech and expression, and the danger of this restriction. Perhaps they are not intentionally malicious, but unnecessary restrictive coincidentally. The study seeks that there is limitation and means of combating hate speech and its effects, to an actual position where the victims are protected under the law against those who express hate and encourage violence, as it affirms that the dangers of racial invective and derogatory hate speech are real. The lessons learned from the perspective of the victims shows the need to proscribe and punish speech that takes away the dignity and self-worth of any individual, and the law ought to protect anyone against the evils triggered by hate speech. The study proposes that coexistence can be achieved by balancing competing values that underlie both concepts without undermining the spirit and essence of protecting free speech to an unfettered status, while promoting the regulation of hate speech and ensuring the law protects victims from the harmful side of speech.