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Namibia: UN Criticized Namibia for Failing to Outlaw Hate Speech Against Minorities

(Sept. 5, 2008) In its annual report released on August 20, 2008, the U.N. Committee on Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination (CERD) censured Namibia for providing legal protection to the practice of hate speech. The report stated that it is unfortunate that the country's 1998 Racial Discrimination Prohibition Amendment Act continues to restrict legal action against hate speech. The committee, noting that hate speech, “practiced mostly by politicians,” “at an unacceptable rate,” stated that it has not seen any concrete measures on the part of the Namibian government to sanction verbal attacks on minority groups. Namibia is a party to the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination. (UN Report Lambastes Nam for Hate Speech, THE NAMIBIAN, Aug. 21, 2008, available at

Although hate speech was initially outlawed in Namibia, the law was later amended to restrict legal action in certain circumstances. The Racial Discrimination Prohibition Act of 1991 prohibits hate speech against any particular racial group, and the violation of this rule entails punishment in the form of a fine in the amount of N$100,000 (about US$12,847)and/or imprisonment for up to 15 years (§§11, 14 Racial Discrimination Prohibition Act, No. 26 of 1991, GOVERNMENT GAZETTE OF THE REPUBLIC OF NAMIBIA (Dec. 23, 1991)). This legislation was amended by the Racial Discrimination Prohibition Amendment Act of 1998, which prohibits prosecution under the 1991 Act if a speech was “relevant to any subject of public interest, was made for the benefit of the public,” and the author of the speech “reasonably believed the statement to be true.” Prosecution is also not warranted if the author pointed out matters that “threaten or insult any racial group” or “cause, encourage or incite hatred between different groups in good faith with the intention of removing such matters.” With regard to publications, no legal action is to be taken if it is established that the language “communicated the truth, and its main purpose was to communicate the truth” (§14(2) Racial Discrimination Prohibition Amendment Act, No. 26 of 1998, GOVERNMENT GAZETTE OF THE REPUBLIC OF NAMIBIA (Sept. 21, 1998)).