Season 1 of media law podcasts now complete: Publish responsibly

posted in Defamation, Disinformation, Fact v opinion, Fair comment, Fake news, Freedom of expression, Media law, Musings on Media, Podcast on by

All five of our media law podcasts have now been uploaded.  You will find episode 5 here.

It is one of my favourites.  To properly understand the case we discuss – where two veteran journalists sued the Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF), and won – you need to go back over 30 years.  My guests are the journalists who brought the case – Thandeka Gqubule-Mbeki and Prof Anton Harber, accused by the EFF of being Stratcom agents.  Read the case before you listen to the podcast here.

For the full season 1 podcasts, you can find links in my blogs below.  Or if you prefer, search for “Webber Wentzel Legal Insights” wherever you get your podcasts (Apple, Google, Spotify).  You will find them easily (and other interesting podcasts from Webber Wentzel, eg the impact of COVID19 on the tech sector).   You can access the Spotify podcasts here.

 

 

 

 

More media law podcasts – disinformation and surveillance

posted in amaBhungane, Bulk surveillance, COVID-19, Defamation, Disinformation, Fake news, Media law, Musings on Media, Podcast, Privacy, RICA, Surveillance on by

Following the release of the very popular open justice podcast (episode 1), you can now listen to episodes 2 and 3.  Listen to all the episodes here or on Spotify or Apple.

In episode 2, I discuss disinformation and whether legal regulation is required, with William Bird of Media Monitoring Africa.  This was recorded before the COVID-19 disaster declaration – we now have, of course, a crime of publishing fake news about COVID-19.  See my previous blog on that crime here.

Then, in episode 3, I discuss unlawful surveillance – especially of journalists – with Sam Sole of amaBhungane, and Prof Jane Duncan, an expert in the field.  You can read Sutherland J’s famous judgment in favour of amaBhungane and Sam in their challenge to RICA here and my blog on his judgment here. We eagerly await the Constitutional Court’s ruling in the confirmation application, heard on 25 February 2020.  Incidentally, COVID-19 brought its own surveillance legislation – in the form of the track and trace regulations; read about them in my blog here.

Episode 4 – to be released next Wednesday – is on media ethics, with the Press Ombudsman Pippa Green, and Prof Glenda Daniels.  And we end the series the following Wednesday with the final episode where my guests are Thandeka Gqubule-Mbeki and Prof Anton Harber.  We take a deep dive into their defamation case against the Economic Freedom Fighters.

Hope you enjoy – and stay safe!

Webber Wentzel media law podcasts

posted in Broadcasting, Court reporting, Live streaming, Media law, Musings on Media, Open justice, Openness, Podcast on by

On Wednesday, Webber Wentzel launched the first episode in our media law podcast series, which deals with the important principle of open justice, exceptions to the principle, and broadcasting/ streaming the courts.

I hosted two fascinating guests.  The first is Advocate Andrea Johnson of the National Prosecuting Authority, who with Gerrie Nel successfully prosecuted Oscar Pistorius for murder (amongst other important prosecutions).  This was the first criminal trial that was broadcast/ streamed to the public, and forms a large part of the discussion.   The second guest is Franny Rabkin, leading legal journalist, Mail & Guardian associate editor, brilliant writer and expert analyst of legal issues.

You can listen to the podcast here or on Spotify or Apple Podcasts.  It’s just over 30 mins – so something different to do during the national lock down.

In the next few weeks, we will drop a podcast every Wednesday.  The next topics (not necessarily in order of release) include surveillance of journalists with Jane Duncan and Sam Sole; media ethics with Prof Glenda Daniels and the Press Ombudsman, Pippa Green; disinformation and defamation with William Bird; and a case study on disinformation with Thandeka Gqubule-Mbeki and Prof Anton Harber – a deep dive into their successful defamation case against the EFF (read the case here).

Hope you enjoy listening as much as I enjoyed the recording!

 

Criminalising fake news about COVID-19

posted in Access to information, Censorship, Fake news, Freedom of expression, Media law, Musings on Media on by

Criminalising fake news is usually not a good thing in a democracy.   These kinds of laws have frequently been abused by authoritarian regimes to punish critical reporting.  As panic about the spread of COVID-19 around the globe set in, so too did the dissemination of false information about the pandemic.

The South African government’s response was to create a criminal offence in its regulations issued last week about the pandemic.

While these regulations were being passed, somewhat ironically, I was on a panel at Webber Wentzel (streamed live over Twitter but not open to the public on account of social distancing guidelines) where Media Monitoring Africa relaunched its Real 411 campaign.  This campaign inter alia seeks to address disinformation on digital media.  I was honoured to share the panel with retired Constitutional Court judge Zak Yacoob – one of my favourite judges – and my former Webber Wentzel colleague, the brilliant Avani Singh.   You can watch a news report about the relaunch here and visit the Real 411 site here

Johan Thiel and I penned a piece for Daily Maverick on the South African government’s false Covid-19 news regulations.  The piece is here.  It was also republished by the UK media law site Inforrm here.

Another interesting piece on the issue is Advocate Michael Laws’ well-argued article in Daily Maverick, with a catchy title including “Corona Censorship”, here

I reproduce our Daily Maverick piece below.  The bottom line in my view is that whatever the wisdom of the fake news law, it would probably in this specific and exceptional context pass constitutional scrutiny.  This is not at all to say that false news laws generally are justifiable; they are not.  But this law sets the bar for prosecution very high – essentially only publishing information you know to be false about COVID-19 would be punished.   Freedom of expression cannot, at least in this context, be used to justify the publication of statements that the speaker knows to be false, and with the intention to deceive the public.

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Snowden, Sam Sole, Sutherland and Surveillance

posted in amaBhungane, Bulk surveillance, Freedom of expression, Media law, Musings on Media, National security, Openness, Privacy, Privacy Law, RICA, Surveillance on by

This week, the Pretoria High Court handed down a momentous decision on South Africa’s surveillance laws that made international headlines.  You can read the judgment here: http://www.saflii.org/za/cases/ZAGPPHC/2019/384.html

Indeed, in response to a tweet by Privacy International about the judgment, the best known modern whistleblower in the world, Edward Snowden, tweeted, ‘Wow’.

The decision has – at least for now – outlawed bulk surveillance in South Africa, and also declared a number of provisions in South Africa’s legislation permitting surveillance – known as RICA – unconstitutional.  Next step is the Constitutional Court.

I was lead attorney in the case for the applicants, the investigative journalists at amaBhungane, and Sam Sole, its co-managing director, who was placed under surveillance in 2008 simply for doing his job.  Sam’s take on the case, an excellent read, is available here: https://www.dailymaverick.co.za/article/2019-09-18-analysis-inside-amabhunganes-landmark-ruling-on-surveillance/

Here’s my summary of the case below, which was published in Business Day this week here:   https://www.businesslive.co.za/bd/opinion/2019-09-17-landmark-rica-ruling-impresses-even-ultimate-whistle-blower-edward-snowden/

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