Green Point Neighbourhood Watch chairman Peter Flentov has opened a defamation case against four men, including Paul Jacobson and Gary Trappler who live in Sea Point and Green Point respectively, for comments posted on social media.
Sean Crookson, from Newlands, and Dennis Dyason, from Somerset West, are the other defendants noted on the summons and Mr Flentov is suing each defendant for a minimum amount of R500 000.
The alleged harassment and defamatory statements were made on Facebook and WhatsApp groups, according to the 44-page document.
“There are numerous acts of defamation over an extended period of time. The defamatory statements were made on social media platforms and started last year. I’ve been working on this (case) since the beginning of the year but the harassment and defamatory comments started last year,” Mr Flentov said.
The summons states that the alleged defamatory comments were made by the defendants on either the Green Point Neighbours WhatsApp chat group that had 45 members at the time, as well as the Atlantic Seaboard and City Bowl Action group on Facebook that had approximately 2 800 members.
In the summons Mr Flentov also requests that the defendants retract and apologise for the allegations made and publish it on social media platforms where the alleged insults were posted.
Mr Trappler confirmed via email to the Atlantic Sun that his firm is representing Mr Jacobson and Mr Cookson, and at the time of printing it was not established if Mr Dyason had been served the summons.
Neither Mr Flentov nor Mr Trappler could confirm a court date and it is believed that this matter could be heard only as early as 2024 due to the backlog at the High Court.
Boitumelo Boshupeng, provincial spokesperson for Legal Aid SA Northern Cape/Western Cape, has warned social media users about thinking before hitting the post button.
“Always remember that your online activity is visible to many people. Think before you post, like, share, tag or comment,” he said.
Mr Boshupeng said being sued for defamation is one of the numerous legal challenges presented by the use of social media.
“Defamation is the intentional and wrongful publication of a statement concerning one person which has the effect of injuring that person’s reputation. To constitute a verbal injury, the words uttered (the comments/posts published) must impair the person’s dignity and be insulting in the sense that they must amount to degrading, humiliating or ignominious treatment. The right to dignity is protected in Section 10 of the Constitution, and encompasses good name and reputation.”
He said the publication of a statement to a third party is an essential element of defamation.
“Publication occurs at the place where the message content is communicated to the reader or listener, seen on an online platform or in an online newspaper or magazine. Social networking sites such as Facebook, Twitter and forums or chat rooms available on websites operate like a bulletin board. The moment one person has seen, read or heard the alleged false information, defamation has occurred. It should also be noted that not only the person who posts the comment or shares the post can get sued, but also people who further like, share or leave comments on these posts.”