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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Identifying suspects: Cliff Richard v the BBC, and SA law

posted in Access to information, Court reporting, Privacy, Privacy Law, Reporting restrictions on by

Molebogeng Kekana and I recently wrote a piece for Daily Maverick on the famous UK privacy case where Cliff Richard successfully sued the BBC for privacy. You can read the case (if you have lots of time on your hands) here.

In our article, we also address the position in South African law – and in particular that it is in general a myth to say that the media cannot identify a suspect before he or she appears in court.  By and large, this only applies to cases involving (i) children accused, and (ii) other accused where the crimes of extortion or sexual offences are concerned.  In the former case, there is a general rule that the child cannot be named without the court’s permission.  In the latter scenario, the identity of the accused can be revealed only when he or she has pleaded to the charge (though I maintain that this is probably unconstitutional).

We also mention the fact that the publishers of the book The Lost Boys of Bird Island decided not to the name the third National Party official implicated in the allegations in the book.

Read our article here.