Is it illegal to post ongoing crime on social media?

Garry Hertzberg, practising attorney at Dewey Hertzberg Levy Incorporated and host of the Laws of Life with Garry Hertzberg on writes:

eBlockwatch founder, Andre Snyman was warned by the police that his post on Facebook about a crime in progress is illegal.

Andre Snyman, founder of eBlockwatch.

What happened was that a man was kidnapped and thrown into the boot of his car. One of his colleagues witnessed this horror and immediately contacted a community policing group in her area to tell the group what had happened. The group admin then went on to report all the relevant information to eBlockwatch who in turn posted the incident on Facebook to generate public participation in saving this man’s life.

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eBlockwatch is a closed group which disseminates information and mobilises communities and members to report and fight crime in their areas. It is a network that includes neighbourhood watches, specialised industrial support teams, security companies, police reservists and a large number of civic-minded ordinary South Africans. The members are generally local to an area and are warned if there is a violent crime occurring in their vicinity.

How the act of posting crime on Facebook can be illegal is beyond me. There is no specific act that makes this a crime.

Are the police suggesting that it obstructs the course of justice?

It seems a stretch because the act of posting on Facebook and calling for help does not have the intention of defeating justice, but rather it has the intention of assisting and furthering the ends of justice and maybe saving a life in the process.

Fikile Mbalula, our new Minister of Police has said that he wants to mobilise our people to work with the police service to fight and defeat crime in our country. The ANC recently said it will focus on using community policing forums to combat crime, and over and above this, the official National Crime Prevention Strategy has as one of its objectives ‘the maximisation of civil society’s participation in mobilising and sustaining crime prevention initiatives’.

Now that the community is standing together and fighting crime, the police want to stop this? It’s ludicrous that the public creates a crime prevention initiative and the police then decide that it is illegal. It is common knowledge that crime is rampant in South Africa and that the police force is poorly resourced.

I’m sure that the frightened soul in the boot of his car would be grateful to all the members of society that got involved in saving his life.

What are your thoughts on this topic? Let us know by posting on our Facebook page.

Edited by Stacey Woensdregt

Garry Hertzberg

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