By Valerie Mcube
The 2017/2018 Oxford Price Media Law Moot Court Competition’s 1st Africa Regional Rounds began on the 8th to 10th of February 2018 with the University of Johannesburg (UJ) hosting the event.
Eleven teams from African and Asian universities deliberated the fictional case of “Peaps and Scoops” in four preliminary rounds at UJ’s Auckland Park Kingsway campus (APK) leading to the final at the Constitution Hill’s Human Rights Room, Braamfontein, Johannesburg.
The case is set in the fictional country of Turtonia, which has been experiencing an “influx of immigrants from [its] neighbouring country Aquaria,” according to the case document.
In the case study, Niam Peaps, a Turtonian nationalist, posted a photoshopped image of his country’s immigration minister on the popular social media platform “Scoops”. The image appeared to show Minister Wani Kola naked in a hotel room with the leader of a terrorist organization from Aquaria.
Peaps published the image on a fake news account, XYZ News12. The account was sanctioned by his organization, Turton Power, and paraded itself as the popular TV news channel XYZ News.
Minister Kola received death threats in the wake of the viral post and later resigned from office. Peaps was prosecuted for the crime.
The first preliminary round, similarly to the following two rounds of the competition, consisted of eight teams presenting their cases during four sessions occurring simultaneously at different venues on the APK campus.
In one of these sessions, the applicants from UJ argued that Peaps’ prosecution was unjust, claiming that everybody has the right to freedom of speech and that Peaps was merely practicing this right.
They further argued that Peaps’ rights were violated when he was fined 1 million Turtonian currency (the equivalent of 100 000 US dollars).
In 2015, Turtonia passed the Online Dignity Protection Act (OPDA), which prevents people from sharing intimate photos that are sent to them.
“The Online Dignity Protection Act refers to original images and not any digital artform that mimics the actual nudity of a person. Therefore, the act is not applicable in this regard,” said Brandon Geraghty, one of the applicants.
The respondents, on the other hand, came from the University of Lagos and argued that Kola’s right to dignity was violated regardless of the authenticity of the post.
“ODPA aims to protect individual privacy and dignity. Kola’s right was infringed by Peaps; therefore, his prosecution was valid as he committed a crime,” said Ike-Amadi Obinna, a respondent.
The social media platform, Scoops, was also prosecuted for distributing the image.
The respondents, in addition, argued that Scoops was prosecuted because the post was on their social media platform making it their job to remove it as requested by Kola. The site failed to do so within reasonable time.
The applicants counter argued that Scoops was not responsible for the outcome of the post as they were not aware of the post’s existence until the damage was already done.
Judge Zinhle Ngwenya congratulated the teams on the way they handled the proceedings and questions from the panel.
“Both teams performed really well however concentrate on improving eye contact and read less from your notes,” Ngwenya said.
This session of the first preliminary round was concluded without a winner being announced.