'Remorse' will play big part in deciding k-word holidaymaker's punishment - social media lawyer
"For somebody to take a video of themselves [saying the k-word] and posting it in a WhatsApp group is just unbelievable," lawyer and social media expert Emma Sadleir told News24 on Thursday.
Sadleir said perpetrators of racism are usually filmed on CCTV cameras or by another party. "There’s a chapter in my book [Selfies, Sexts and Smartphones: A Teenager’s Online Survival Guide] called 'Selfie Incrimination', I think that is exactly what happened here."
In a video on social media that quickly went viral, Adam Catzavelos records himself at an overseas holiday spot saying: "Not one k****r in sight, f*cking heaven on earth… You cannot beat this!"
The video has sparked outrage from many quarters, with the SA Human Rights Commission confirming to News24 that it would be laying a criminal charge against Catzavelos.
"I think people are starting to realise that when things go wrong, they go horribly wrong," said Sadleir.
Reputation in tatters
"For me, the biggest issue here is reputation. There may be criminal charges or civil cases, but the big thing is the long-term reputational harm.
"If you google this guy’s name in five years’ time, this is still what you’re going to get."
Sadleir said that, while the fact that the video was taken from a WhatsApp group was an infringement of Catzavelos’ privacy, and that he himself had not posted it on social media, "it’s a valid infringement".
"There are two defences to privacy infringement: consent and public interest. There’s a lot of public interest in rooting out racism."
Consequences depend on him
The way Catzavelos handles the matter going forward will play a huge part in what consequences and penalties he could face.
René Koraan, senior lecturer at the law faculty of North West University, told News24 that Catzavelos’ actions could lead to a "stiff fine" or suspended sentence, with the possibility of jail time.
But Sadleir reckons that a show of remorse could play a big part in what happens to him.
"I think one of the reasons Vicki Momberg was sent to prison was because she didn’t show any remorse. She said the k-word 48 times, she tried to plead severe emotional stress, temporary insanity, messed around with the judicial system."
Momberg is currently on bail after she was granted leave to appeal a three-year prison sentence.
"But in other crimen injuria cases, a few hundred hours of community service is usually an appropriate sentence, as well as an adult life-skills programme."
Unacceptable to 'dox' wife and kids
Sadleir said she found it unacceptable that people are targeting Catzavelos’ wife and children.
"They have nothing to do with this.
"Public opinion is important, but you have to be careful that you’re not held to ransom by the digital vigilante mob."
This follows the naming of Catzavelos’ wife and employer, as well as details about his children, by social media users. This is called "doxing", the searching for and publishing of private or identifying information about a particular individual on the internet, typically with malicious intent.
"His name: yes. His company: yes. His face: yes. But the children? That’s not in the public interest. I just don’t think it’s okay," Sadleir said.