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Even though the status update was made by an employee of a company, who's social media profile had no link to the brand whatsoever on his Facebook page, FHM had been dragged into the whole uproar, leaving people out there wondering if they have a right to freedom of speech and a right to their own personal social statuses on Facebook and Twitter when contracted to a company.
We asked the Editor of FHM, Brendan Cooper as to why he felt that he had to make a public apology when the matter was actually between him and his employees, and why the harsh punishment of suspension?
He responded: "Although the ill comments were made on the writers’ private social media accounts, it bridges their social media contract that they signed with Media 24.The contract states anything damaging, defamatory or racist is an offence.
“When you join Media 24 you abide to those rules.”
Cooper who feels very passionate about this issue says: "They're actually nice boys. But having these comments linked to my brand (has) me absolutely furious."
Social media expert Ryan Hogarth says, "It becomes a problem for the brand when you trend. The reality is that now a days your personal and professional lives have merged. What we do in our personal space affects us as a whole.
“FHM had to do something about their brand because they were dragged into this situation by the public, it was ethical for them to respond publicly.
"But I'm not sure if suspending them was the right thing to do or not.
“In terms of freedom of speech, it's interesting that there's no law to making distasteful jokes. There is no line between hate speech and freedom of speech.
Immediate disciplinary action was taken against FHM features features editor, Max Barashenkov who's status update read:
"I propose correctional rape and sterilisation for any white person who twerks."
and editorial assistant Montle Moorosi who commented in response:
"I think rape can be quite fun if executed in a romantic manner. Like saying ‘I love you' before you slip a roofie [Rohypnol, a sedative] in her Earl Grey tea."
One of Barashenkov's female friend's rebuked them by saying correctional rape should never be condoned.
Facebook friends scorned the comments to which Barashenkov replied:
"I myself was a victim of correctional rape, so I can make jokes about it."
General Manager of Times Media LIVE, Derek Abdinor was approached to answer this sensitive question of 'who's line is it anyway?'. Does a company have a right to suspend you over a personal social media status?
He says, "in general, a person have a right to their own personal life after they clocked out of the workplace, it's only fair.
The statements were meant as a joke, but its not funny: these can be construed as hate speech which, in this country, is illegal. When the company's name is dragged into it the error of judgement made by an employee affects the brand they work for. Companies have social media policies for these exact reasons."
In South Africa, hate speech (along with incitement to violence and propaganda for war) is specifically excluded from protection of free speech in the Constitution. The Promotion of Equality and Prevention of Unfair Discrimination Act, 2000 contains the following clause:
[N]o person may publish, propagate, advocate or communicate words based on one or more of the prohibited grounds, against any person, that could reasonably be construed to demonstrate a clear intention to―
be harmful or to incite harm;
promote or propagate hatred.
The "prohibited grounds" include race, gender, sex, pregnancy, marital status, ethnic or social origin, colour, sexual orientation, age, disability, religion, conscience, belief, culture, language and birth.
The crime of crimen injuria ("unlawfully, intentionally and seriously impairing the dignity of another") may also be used to prosecute hate speech. -Wikipedia