Monday, December 3, 2007

South African Journalist Fired for Blogging

South African journalist Llewellyn Kriel was fired from the newspaper Sowetan last Thursday after blogging about the company's mismanagement on Thought Leader. The official reasoning was that Kriel disclosed confidential information about Sowetan, which the company sent out in an email to employees. Others, Kriel included, viewed the decision as an infringement on freedom of expression. Journalist Arthur Goldstuck quotes Kriel:

“Here is an organisation whose entire existence is premised on freedom of expression. It’s an organisation that continually calls on private and public institutions to account for their behaviour. Yet, they don’t want to be measured by that yardstick.

“If a company is putting out a moratorium on new appointments, surely this is something you can argue is in the public interest to be known? Nothing in the email, and nothing in the way it was distributed, gave any indication of sensitivity or confidentiality at all.”

Sowetan published an article just a week earlier on employees' constitutional right to criticize their employer's management practices.

Andrew Trench ponders what the case may signal for the future of intellectual property rights:

WiIl we see employment contracts in media restricting staff from blogging without the permission of their employer, much like freelance writing clauses which are pretty standard in contracts these days?

What if a staff writer developed a popular blog independently within their own time and was able to sell advertising to generate income from it? How would this be dealt with?

8 comments:

Challenger78 said...

If you were his boss, and he was badmouthing the company, Wouldn't you fire him ? I would.

Free speech should be a right, but whoever speaks freely should be advised of the consequences. It's the same across the board, from the KKK, to the anti war protesters, You can't have one without the other.

Anonymous said...

Has anyone read this guy's blog? He was critical of the work turned in by his junior colleagues (BTW it's was his job to correct their work -- not whinge in public about it), and he disclosed the contents of an internal memo.

I'm sorry he was fired but bloggers should be more careful about what they say.

Bhaanu said...

Is this really happening?

just a feelings said...

hello
nice blog and nice topic
i think firing is better than solitary.in egypt alot of journalists is now at jail.promise will post a theme about them
hope to be a frinds
c u soon
bye

Julie P - CEO 4 Life said...

Hey Christina,

Personally I don't think someone should be fired for blogging and expressing themselves but I do think that an employee has a duty to keep company information private. A company's image is hurt when employees slander them in public and as an employee you have a duty to deal with internal issues internally.

At Stellar Enterprise we have a Value-Centered Management approach where if something is not working you can submit a Kaizen which means small change for the better and actually implement a change yourself.

Stellar is run from employees up which is very different than having a manager down flow. We have the power to work freely and improve our jobs as we go.

We are committed to the company and if there is an issue you work it out you don't slander your company and attack them publically.

That would be like turning on your wife or husband at home and posting blogs about how they cook, clean or make the bed.

Faithfulness at home and at work will lead you to building character which I think is very admirable.

Freedom of speach is all well and good... but you must consider an employers right of privacy.

O Pechanga said...

I'm in agreement that the First Amendment rights don't keep you from getting fired. From getting jailed is another story. Your rights are keeping the government from acting against you.

You don't use company ink to badmouth the company.

The tribe that has disenrolled us, The Pechanga Band of Luiseno Mission Indians of CA have tried to stifle free speech, threatening per capita if members spoke out. And there isn't anything the Feds would do about it.

Luckily, my blog is protected... uh, isn't it?

buff daddy said...

"Sowetan published an article just a week earlier on employees' constitutional right to criticize their employer's management practices."

The one sentence that changes the entire scope of this issue, and nobody seemed to read it...

He worked for a company that is in the business of critizing everyone and everything around them, and they stay in business because people like to read it. And they become profitable when a majority of their readership critizes THEM for their critisms! Those who live in glass houses...

Secondly, this seems to be a hot topic in South Africa lately, and what makes this case special is not who he is or what he said, per se, but what it represents to our basic freedom... If he was fired for what he said to the public, regardless of who or what it was about, then what will or won't any other journalist say for fear of losing their jobs? That scares a lot of people!

But the irony of it all is that what he was fired for is the same reason that the Sowetan started out as... a liberation struggle newspaper in 1981 during apartheid...

Carter said...

If the guy had such a problem with his job, could there possibly have been a way that he could have complained constructively? Maybe sent an internal e-mail to HR? Everyone has the right to speak up, but if there is a problem at work, shouldn't you be talking about it with people at work? Airing out dirty laundry to the world won't do much to solve your problem.

Who knows, maybe he did that to no avail, I don't know...