SAPRA – Defamation and crimen injuria


SAPRA is a paralegal advocacy non-profit company.
SAPRA is registered with the Companies and Intellectual Property Commission as a non-profit company (NPC 2018/620182/08).
* Paralegals (“grassroots barefoot lawyers”) are not legal professionals (Attorneys or Advocates).  Paralegal organizations provide basic legal advice to individuals and communities who have no access to, or who cannot afford access to formal legal services.   The South African Pagan Rights Alliance (NPC) offers free, practical assistance on basic legal issues, including social welfare, employment disputes, infringement of and discrimination against personal legal and constitutional rights, and provides referrals to formal legal representation where necessary.

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Defamation is defined as “any unlawful, intentional false communication, either written or spoken, that harms a person’s reputation; decreases the respect, regard, or confidence in which a person is held; or induces disparaging, hostile, or disagreeable opinions or feelings against a person.”

An example of defamation might be an article published on a blog or on Facebook that accuses a person of acting unethically or dishonestly, or of having committed a crime such as fraud, even if the person’s conduct did not constitute unethical or dishonest behaviour, or the person has not been found guilty of committing any crime.

Defamation includes both written statements (libel) and spoken statements (slander). Telling a group of friends on Facebook that someone has acted unethically, dishonestly, or has committed a crime – naming and shaming – also constitutes defamation.

A defamatory statement must be made known to at least one person other than the defamed individual.

The law of defamation protects individual reputation. The law assumes that all people are of good character until the opposite is proved in a court of law.

A civil action for defamation may result in a court granting an order requiring that the defamatory statement/s be removed, whether published on a website, blog, or anywhere else on social media. The order would also prohibit all future re-publication of these statements. Anyone in breach of such a court order (ignoring a court order) may be found to be in contempt of the court order and could be prosecuted.

Consult an attorney in order to determine whether or not you have cause to initiate a civil action against defamation.

Crimen injuria

Crimen injuria is a crime under South African common law, defined as the act of “unlawfully and intentionally impairing the dignity or privacy of another.”

An example of crimen injuria would include verbally insulting or abusing, stalking, or threatening to harm someone, or making known a person’s privileged or private information without their prior consent. Ridiculing someone’s ethnicity using racially offensive language, or ridiculing someone’s religious affiliation, sexual identity or sexual preference, may constitute crimen injuria, especially where such ridicule causes emotional or psychological harm to others.

An action against crimen injuria begins with lodging a complaint against the injuria with your nearest police station. The police will investigate the allegation and if sufficient evidence can be found to support an allegation of injuria, a prosecutor will initiate trial proceedings against the perpetrator for crimen injuria.

A guilty judgement for crimen injuria may result in a first offender being sentenced to a fine and a suspended sentence for a period on condition that the offender does not re-offend. Contempt of a court order, or re-offending, may result in imprisonment. A person found guilty of crimen injuria will, once convicted, have a criminal record.

Note: One need not choose either civil or criminal action. If published libel causes emotional or psychological harm, both civil and criminal action can be initiated against the perpetrator.


Vicky Momberg – “k” word – crimen injuria

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