Pacific

UN racism expert urges Australia to maintain hate speech law

  • Mutuma Ruteere, U.N. special rapporteur on racism, addresses media in Canberra, Australia Monday, Dec. 5, 2016. The Kenyan rights researcher urged Australia not to water down hate-speech prohibitions as bigots and extremists become more vocal. (AP Photo/Rod McGuirk)

    Mutuma Ruteere, U.N. special rapporteur on racism, addresses media in Canberra, Australia Monday, Dec. 5, 2016. The Kenyan rights researcher urged Australia not to water down hate-speech prohibitions as bigots and extremists become more vocal. (AP Photo/Rod McGuirk)  (The Associated Press)

  • Mutuma Ruteere, U.N. special rapporteur on racism, addresses media in Canberra, Australia Monday, Dec. 5, 2016. The Kenyan rights researcher urged Australia not to water down hate-speech prohibitions as bigots and extremists become more vocal. (AP Photo/Rod McGuirk)

    Mutuma Ruteere, U.N. special rapporteur on racism, addresses media in Canberra, Australia Monday, Dec. 5, 2016. The Kenyan rights researcher urged Australia not to water down hate-speech prohibitions as bigots and extremists become more vocal. (AP Photo/Rod McGuirk)  (The Associated Press)

A United Nations expert on racism has urged Australia not to water down its hate-speech prohibitions, as bigots and extremists become more vocal.

Mutuma Ruteere, U.N. special rapporteur on racism, joined the debate surrounding Australia's Racial Discrimination Act on Monday at the end of a weeklong fact-finding mission.

The conservative government had planned to amend Section 18 C of the Act, which prohibits offending someone on the basis of race, color or ethnicity

But the government shelved plans at the insistence of Muslim leaders in the interests of forging closer community cooperation against extremists.

But several conservative lawmakers argue that law unreasonably restricts freedom of speech and want the 21-year-old section scrapped.

Ruteere says the section "presents an interesting and useful balance" between freedom of speech and protecting minorities.