Pretoria - Individuals who have recently been accused of rape on various social media sites have opened cases for defamation at the Brooklyn police station.
This after social media users named and shamed alleged rapists by posting a list of their names that included pictures that flooded various social media platforms.
Last week saw scores of students take to the streets of Hatfield demanding the arrest of an alleged rapist residing in one of the flats in the student precinct.
The victim, a 19-year-old was allegedly raped last year in September by a 22-year-old postgraduate student.
SAPS responded to the scene and arrested the student who has since been given R 1000 bail and will be appearing on the 29th of October.
Naming and shaming followed as Twitter accounts popped up tweeting threads of alleged rapists with some being celebrities.
Police spokesperson Captain Colette Weilbach said “threats were also made against these so-called rapists.”
“The young men opened cases for defamation of character and are fearing for their safety based on these unfounded allegations.”
“No case dockets were opened against them for the alleged offences.”
Criminal defamation consists of the unlawful intentional publication of matter concerning another which tends seriously to injure his or her good name or reputation.
Weilbach said the allegation that someone is a rapist is unquestionably defamatory in law.
“Posts like these can have serious and lasting consequences. The social media user who initiated the post and those who shared or retweeted it are potentially liable.”
“If found guilty, offenders can be held liable for all probable consequences of the statement, including those flowing from republication by third parties.”
She said the arm of the law also extends to those who repeat as they would be liable too.
“‘ In certain circumstances, a court might grant an order requiring that any existing instances of the defamatory statement, such as on a website, be removed.”
“The order would likely also forbid all future republication. Anyone breaching such a court order is then in contempt of court and could be prosecuted.”
Advocate Anne-Lize Lourens and soon to be presiding Judge told Pretoria News that people need to take defamation seriously and not fall foul of the law. .
“It is highly defamatory, there’s no evidence and the burden of proof is very high to prove in such cases.
“Courts don’t take it lightly. It’s wrong, people need to be more careful and recognise the far-reaching effects of such tweets.”
Earlier in month Brooklyn SAPS also cautioned social media users against posting of unverified information.
“Unverified posts can cause panic and alarm amongst the public and is regarded as very irresponsible,” said Weilbach.