Media Statement: Serious allegation of hate speech found to have no basis

NSW police have conducted a review of a serious allegation of hate speech at the Opera House protest in October and found that the allegations were incorrect. Expert examination of the video evidence proves that protestors were chanting “where’s the Jews” and did not chant “gas the Jews” as was widely reported by many media outlets on the basis of a wrongly captioned video shared on social media.

This finding demonstrates the danger of reporting a serious allegation as a “fact” before the findings of investigations are made public.

We cannot ignore that the public commentary made by some media outlets and politicians occurred in an environment where the right to protest is under attack and protestors have been demonised.

We stand with the protestors who continue to advocate for peace and justice. We reiterate that criticising a State power’s military campaign that disproportionally impacts civilians should be permitted in a democracy. In fact, it is essential.

The changes to S93Z of the Crimes Act came hot on the heals of the release of a wrongly captioned video on social media. The NSW Premier did not wait for the review of the evidence prior to changing the law.

This is another example of how due process, civil liberties and human rights can be swept aside under the guise of “expediency.”  Regurgitating the serious allegation as a “fact” ripped at the fabric of our social cohesion and caused unnecessary harm to vulnerable communities.

The findings of the NSW police investigation demonstrates that we must all take a more proactive role in ensuring that our civil liberties and parliamentary process are not disregarded when it is politically desirable to do so. Parliamentary processes exist to protect the public. The changes to S93Z of the Crimes Act should have been reviewed by a Parliamentary Inquiry before they were enacted by the Parliament. The current review, while welcomed, is too little too late.

When due process is bypassed, democracy suffers and there is a risk that our civil liberties will further be eroded. It undermines the rule of law and breeds mistrust in law enforcement, our political leadership and for some members of the public, in democracy itself.

Civil liberties and human rights are rarely taken away from us in one swoop. It occurs systemically, over time. They are chipped away by government encroachment and aided by a decline in a rigorous and independent press. The erosion of civil liberties occurs when people are too frightened or distracted to exercise their rights.

We all have a role in ensuring that civil liberties are promoted and defended, that our governments are transparent and accountable to the public, as well as ensuring that the Australian Government complies with its obligations under international law to prevent genocide.

All those who repeated this serious allegation as a fact, which we now know there is no evidence to substantiate, have an obligation to immediately correct the public record. This includes members of governments and the media.  

We look forward to the public record being corrected.