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