Judith Collins defends Golriz Ghahraman after being called 'menace' by David Seymour

National MP Judith Collins has defended the Green Party's Golriz Ghahraman after ACT leader David Seymour labelled her a "menace to freedom".

Seymour appeared on Magic Talk's afternoons show with Sean Plunket to discuss Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern's efforts with the Christchurch Call and response to terrorism being promoted online.

On Thursday, world leaders and technology companies signed up to the Christchurch Call which included a declaration to limit videos promoting terrorism online, take immediate action on livestreaming extremist content and review algorithms which may drive users to the content.

However, Seymour is concerned about agreements like the Christchurch Call leading to greater censorship and freedom of expression being limited.

He said authorities shouldn't be empowered to punish people on the basis of what others believe is offensive or insulting.

"People might argue about what the facts are [in a case], and that is why we have juries, but you can only be punished using the power of the state if you are proved to be guilty based on fact," Seymour told Plunket.

"Once you start talking about speech and opinion, well really the question is whether or not the things you say are popular at the time."

He gave the example of Kate Sheppard's crusade to give women the vote being initially unpopular at the time, but the enfranchisement of women isn't contested now.

Judith Collins defends Golriz Ghahraman after being called 'menace' by David Seymour
Photo credit: Getty

Seymour said Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern and other figures like Ghahraman tend to not support the view that "sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me".

"I just think that Golriz Ghahraman is completely wrong, I don't know if she understands what she is saying, but she is a real menace to freedom in this country."

He then goes on to compare Ghahraman to Chinese Premier Xi Jinping.

"It is actually very difficult to tell the difference. I actually looked at a couple of paragraphs, one paragraph from each, I tried to guess which was which, and Xi Jinping actually looked like a more liberal guy on this issue than Golriz Ghahraman."

Golriz responds

It comes only days after Newshub revealed the extent to which Ghahraman is a target of white supremacists online. In some messages Newshub has seen, people discuss hanging her like a lynch mob.

Ghahraman responded to Seymour's comments on Twitter on Friday, saying Seymour was "dog whistling to racists".

"The same racists who were just caught talking about how to kill me. Otherwise why not mention that the Justice Minister and PM are also leading on hate speech reform," she tweeted.

Collins came to her defence, saying there needed to be a "time out".

"Please don't refer to Golriz in this way. I do not agree with almost anything she says, but she is a person and it does not assist political debate to dehumanise her like that."

Collins' tweet received thanks from Green MP Julie Anne Genter and other users on Twitter.

Questioned on if she was being protected or complaining about Seymour's comments, Ghahraman said she just kept "thinking about Jo Cox" - the British MP murdered in 2016 by a man with far-right views.

She said she didn't believe Seymour's comments came close to hate speech, but "knowingly talking about someone already targeted by extremist violence as a threat may be incitement".

"That was how UN tribunals charged a lot of politicians. Context matters," she said before saying she may refer the comments to the Speaker.

Future review

Last month, Justice Minister Andrew Little asked his ministry to work with the Human Rights Commission to look into whether New Zealand's laws sufficiently balance issues of freedom of speech and hate speech.

While laws prohibit the incitement of racial disharmony, Little says the same sanctions don't apply on grounds of religious faith.

Ardern said the review wouldn't lead to people's ability to criticise religious groups being banned, but instead it would consider if enough was being done to stop people threatening violence towards them.