#IndianSpiceLeaks: The situation for Megazone Media has turned nasty as the owner and his attorney threaten their staff with arrests by this weekend.
The station has found itself in a crisis recently as core staff went on strike with 30 other staff walking out soon after the story broke out in the media. The four staffers at Megazone Radio went on strike for more than a week, bringing operations to a literal halt where the internet radio station scrambled to fill the gaps in broadcast.
It has come to light that the Megazone has been unable to pay salaries which drove the staffers to take a decision to go ‘on strike.’
Vishal Maharaj, the owner of Megazone Media hosted a Whatsapp conversation with staffers of Megazone Hit Radio from his hospital bed over the pay dispute as well as damage to the station’s studio equipment.
The conversation seemed quite heated which then led to a racist slur made by Maharaj who likened his staff’s alleged behavior to that of ‘barbaric’ black South Africans.
Now following his racist tirade, there is a good chance that Maharaj could go on trial and will probably face a hefty fine.
It has been due to similar instances like this, lawmakers in South Africa, where the wounds of apartheid remain raw, have moved to make hate speech a crime punishable by up to 10 years in prison.
It was also in the case of when an SA woman hurled insults to a police officer that soon after lawmakers released a draft law that would criminalize racism by referring future hate speech cases to criminal courts instead of the civil courts where they were currently heard.
The conversation hosted by Vishal Maharaj, owner of Megazone Media can be viewed here
‘Behaving like barbaric uneducated blacks toi toi [sic] and destroying property’
Criminalizing hate speech, would have a negative effect on another hard-won victory: freedom of expression. Under the proposed law, hate speech would be broadly defined as direct or electronic communication that “advocates hatred,” incites violence or causes contempt or ridicule.
A first-time offender like Maharaj could be punished by up to three years in prison, and a repeat offender could face imprisonment of up to 10 years.
Beyond the stiff penalties, critics say, the law would also distract from the real problems in South Africa, where blacks have political power but where economic power and cultural influence remain disproportionately in the hands of other race groups, who account for only 9 percent of the population.
“The recent racist utterances and many other incidents of vicious crimes perpetrated under the influence of racial hate, despite our efforts over the past two decades to build our new nation on these values, has necessitated further measures,” says Justice Minister Michael Masutha.
The four suspended staff members were notified last night by their “mediator” that the company plans to have them arrested by the weekend on 11 charges.
The striking staffers have been accused of malicious intent:
- Tampering with the CEO’s laptop.
- Malicious damage to Company property
- Interruption and interference of live broadcasts
- Illegally accessing the company surveillance & monitoring traffic of people at the company
- Acts of intimidation & harassing staff, service providers & clients
- False misrepresentation that the Company has closed down
While South Africa’s post-apartheid Constitution guarantees freedom of expression, it excludes “advocacy of hatred that is based on race, ethnicity, gender or religion, and that constitutes incitement to cause harm.” An act passed in 2000 broadened the definition of hate speech to include expressions that are “hurtful” and “harmful” or that will “incite harm” or “promote or propagate hatred.”
Pierre de Vos, a constitutional scholar at the University of Cape Town, said the country was already “quite aggressive in targeting hate speech.”
“Given our history, the people who drafted our Constitution assumed that although freedom of expression is very important, hate speech cannot under any circumstance serve any valuable purpose,” he said.
View the full Whatsapp conversation here