Professor Joanna Botha is Head of the Department of Public Law and a recognised expert on freedom of expression and the regulation of hate speech.

Joanna is an Attorney of the High Court of South Africa and an experienced legal professional, with an academic career in lecturing, research and leadership extending over 20 years.

She is widely published as a researcher and is consulted as a legal expert on the intersection of freedom of expression, human dignity, and equality. Her particular focus is on the development of a regulatory framework for hate crimes and hate speech that is founded on understanding that inter-group hostility is linked to the power dynamics of social hierarchies. She explores these issues from a people-oriented perspective, in the context of South Africa’s constitutional order.

Joanna is an engaged researcher, aiming to make a meaningful difference through her work to development of the law, public discourse on rights and freedom of expression, and legal education.

She also has a broader research interest in the relationship between law and socio-economic development, and the capacity of the law to advance meaningful change and social justice both in South Africa and globally.

Her research has been quoted with approval in a judgment of the Constitutional Court of South Africa in a recent hate speech judgment.

Joanna’s in-depth knowledge and seminal research on hate speech and equality has led to her representing the African continent in panels convened by the United Nations to develop global standards for the elimination of racial discrimination. She is an executive committee member of the international research networks, Law and Development Research Network (LDRN) and the International Network of Hate Studies (INHS).

Mentoring of postgraduate students and early-career academics in research skills is her passion, and she welcomes research supervision in the fields of hate crimes and hate speech; the protection of equality, dignity, privacy and freedom of expression; law and development, and related aspects of Public Law.

Joanna has been awarded the Law Faculty’s Researcher of the Year award for the past five years.

At undergraduate level, she lectures the Legal Interpretation and Human Rights Law modules on the LLB programme. Joanna founded the Faculty’s acclaimed Moot Court programme, which engages final-year students in practical legal case work and interaction with the legal profession and will facilitate the module again in 2023.

Joanna holds the degrees BA LLB (Rhodes) and LLD (NMMU) and has served as Head of the Department of Public Law since July 2016.

In the first term of 2023, she will be serving as an Acting Judge in the Eastern Cape High Court.

View Joanna’s research profile and publications.

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