NZ plans stronger hate speech laws after Christchurch

It was the white supremacist attack which shocked the world in New Zealand back in March 2019.

As Australian man Brenton Tarrant killed 51 people and injured dozens when he opened fire on Muslim worshippers in two mosques in Christchurch.

Now, in response, the government said Friday (June 25) that it plans to strengthen its hate speech laws, and increase penalties for inciting hatred and discrimination.

The move comes after a Royal Commission of Inquiry recommended changes to existing laws which it said were weak deterrents for people targeting religious and other minority groups with hate.

It noted that New Zealand's hate speech laws have resulted in just one prosecution and two civil claims so far.

Justice Minister Kris Faafoi said punishment for such offences would be increased to a maximum of three years in prison or a fine of up to NZ$50,000- or around $35,000 USD.

The current punishment is up to NZ$7,000 or three months in jail.

''What we are looking at is when people are speaking or commenting about a group because of their ethnicity, their religious beliefs, their sexuality, or other characteristics, like their gender status and what they are saying is intended to incite, stir up, maintain and normalise hatred against that group. But that has no place in New Zealand and we will strengthen the laws to reflect that."

The government also proposed provisions that would protect trans, gender diverse and intersex people from discrimination.

The proposals are now open for public consultation.

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