David Seymour, wider public need to be conscious of their language - Tova O'Brien

The AM Show 22/05/2019

Golriz Ghahraman's need for a security escort after David Seymour labelled her a "menace to freedom" shows MPs need to be more responsible with their language, says Newshub's Political Editor.

On Tuesday, Newshub revealed that Ghahraman would be escorted by a parliamentary security guard after Seymour told Magic Talk's Sean Plunket that she was a "menace to freedom" during a discussion about free speech.

Ghahraman said she saw a spike in threats after the comments, which came only days after Newshub revealed how white supremacists had discussed lynching Ghahraman in a closed forum.

Seymour told Newshub on Tuesday that he stood by the comments, but Newshub's Political Editor Tova O'Brien said Seymour and the public, in general, need to be conscious of their language.

"I just think that some of the language that has been used by David Seymour, in particular, and actually everyone just needs to be a bit more conscious of the language they are using in the wake of Christchurch and actually in the wake of our enlightenment in terms of what has been going on in New Zealand," she told The AM Show.

"That is inflammatory language and I just think... people need to be a bit more responsible, especially MPs, when they are talking about this stuff."

Cooler heads need to prevail.

O'Brien said a debate about free speech and changes to hate speech law was necessary, but those partaking should be aware of how their words could "radicalise or galvanise" some people.

"Now that we know how these people operate, how dog-whistling kinda works for them, how incrementally and seemingly innocuous language can be used to kind of radicalise or galvanise these people, I think that MPs especially, and generally all of us need to be a bit more sensitive and a bit more responsible in the language that we use."

She noted that other figures, like Andrew Little who ordered a review of New Zealand's hate speech laws, hadn't been on the receiving end of the same kind of language.

"He hasn't called Andrew Little, for example, or anyone else who is in that hate speech/free speech realm, a menace and a threat in the same way he did with Golriz Ghahraman."

Seymour says Ghahraman "gives as good as she gets" and didn't believe he was responsible for the increase in threats towards the Green MP.

We should both be against the kind of bullying from people who are criminals because it is a crime to threaten someone with violence.

Seymour said he hadn't personally attacked her and rather "attacked her views", adding: "I've said that she's a menace to a particular issue which is freedom of speech - that's quite different, that's debating the issues."

The AM Show / Newshub reporter Jamie Ensor