Media law Podcast – Episode 4 (Media ethics)

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Take a listen to episode 4 in the Webber Wentzel Media law podcast series, avalable on Spotify, Apple podcasts and here

Who better to talk about ethics in the media world than the Press Ombudsman, Pippa Green, and Wits journalism professor Glenda Daniels?

It was a fascinating discussion- covering a wide range of topics from credibility, rights of reply, sources, privacy and public interest, and regulating online comments.

Hope you enjoy.

Next week Wednesday, the last episode in this series : I interview Prof Anton Harber and Thandeka Gqubule-Mbeki about this case.

 

 

More media law podcasts – disinformation and surveillance

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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

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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!

 

COVID-19 and location surveillance

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Given the rapid spread of  COVID-19 infections around the world and in our country, the South African government has had to act quickly to pass regulations under the Disaster Management Act, to regulate aspects of our lives as we fight the pandemic.

One of the more interesting of the regulations now passed deals with “track and tracing”, which is essentially the ability of the government to compel the mobile phone operators to share location data of those who have COVID-19 so that their contacts can be traced and tested.

Of course any form of surveillance of our personal data should raise constitutional eyebrows, and location information is no different.  But given the importance of contact tracing to arrest the spread of the disease, and thus ultimately save lives, is this kind of law permissible during the pandemic?  More specifically, what safeguards are necessary for such a law to pass constitutional muster?

Lavanya Pillay, an associate who works with me, and I grappled with this issue in a recent article in Daily Maverick – here.

I reproduce the article below: we ultimately conclude that the regulations are in may respects a fairly  good attempt to balance privacy and the compelling government objective involved – they contain 9 essential safeguards to minimise the privacy invasion, including post-surveillance notification (which amaBhungane argued so vociferously for in the recent RICA constitutional challenge: read more about that in my blog on the Pretoria High Court’s decision here.  The Constitutional Court’s decision is eagerly awaited).  And Justice Kate O’Regan – retired Constitutional Court judge and one of our constitutional rock stars – has been appointed as the “designated COVID-19 judge” to oversee the implementation of the regulations in so far as the right to privacy is concerned – a bold and important appointment.

The article follows below:

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Criminalising fake news about COVID-19

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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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