Before an official court plea, CIC Julius Malema was one of these users, retweeting a picture onto his timeline, to millions of followers.
However, he should be aware that there have been multiple cases across the world where merely sharing a tweet can land you in serious legal trouble.
Look at this!
We’re being told that the fiancé is pregnant!
The sympathetic angel gaining momentum from other quarters! https://t.co/OoQdDV5VoR
— Tumi Sole (@tumisole) September 30, 2018
Unfortunately, the picture shared by Julius Malema has sparked a huge debate about race and the media, with many claiming the suspect’s ethnicity is the reason his name has been kept secret. This is simply not true, and peddling that narrative also strays into the territory of defamation.
It’s not just the media who are bound by these laws, though. Twitter is a platform where information can spread rapidly, and if it turns out the party is innocent, the same defamation rules that apply to journalists also apply to social media users.
If you are exposed to these posts, don’t share them. Malema’s decision to jump the gun treads a very dangerous legal line, and it’s not one ordinary citizens should flirt with.
What media law says about identifying the defendant
Once they have made a plea, the media can then report on the charges being faced by an individual, using their name in the process. This doesn’t allow journalists to then label the suspect a “rapist”, but they can use terms like “alleged rapist” to add context to the situation.
Getting this wrong can be devastating for those behind the publication of the information. The state needs to be able to prove a defendant has been given a fair trial – being prematurely identified and classed as a criminal before being found guilty severely jeopardises this, as legal advisor Helene Eloff explains