n South African Law Journal - The cartoon wars : free speech or hate speech?

Volume 127, Issue 3
  • ISSN : 0258-2503
  • E-ISSN: 1996-2177



This article examines the legal issues raised by the judgment of the then Transvaal Provincial Division in the case of . In that case, the court was asked to prohibit the publication of twelve cartoons which satirised the Prophet Mohammed. These cartoons had originally been published in a Danish newspaper, and gave rise to an international furore which became known as the 'cartoon wars' and the 'cartoon controversy'. The cartoon controversy and the judgment in the case are particularly interesting because they provide an opportunity to explore a number of issues, these being: the ambit of human dignity as both a foundational value and a fundamentally entrenched right; the scope of the right to freedom of expression; and the prohibition on hate speech. The article sets out to undertake just such an analysis, ultimately finding that the cartoons can be classified as hate speech, thus taking the expression beyond the realm of free and protected speech.

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