There have been several reports over the weekend about Llewellyn Kriel, who is supposedly Africa’s first blogger to lose his job as a direct result of his blogging activities.
South African company Avusa, who publishes The Sowetan Newspaper where Kriel was a sub-editor, fired him because he blogged about confidential internal information at Thought Leader.
At least one person, Victor Ngeny, reporting this story is up in arms about the supposed hypocrisy surrounding this case:
This case brings forth the idea of free expression and free speech. It is saddening to note that the media, which has been at the fore front of clamouring for freedom of expression, are the one now suppressing it. When one reads the memo which landed Kriel in this situation, there is no indication that it is confidential. Kriel uses it to emphasise his case in the dearth of standards at The Sowetan.
There is also the case of intellectual property… who can claim ownership of the writings that a staff writer writes in his personal blog his employer or the writer, himself. To me the ultimate owner of the works is the write[r] as he initiates the thoughts and puts the down. If he happens to do this on company time then a sharing of the derivatives should follow. Compa[n]ies usually share in the limelight as a staff witer or employee builds his personal brand.
Perhaps unsurprisingly, this view sits very much in favour of the blogger’s rights, though we have to consider the company as well.
It’s easy to suggest that the company is stifling free speech, and therefore has double standards, but in reality, if an employee blogs about confidential company matters, then I see very little difference between that, and him shouting out secrets on the street, or walking to a rival company and telling the CEO all that he knows.
The likelihood of Avusa not having watertight employment contracts, explicitly outlining whether blogging is acceptable, and on what terms, is high. However, notwithstanding the medium used to communicate, there will be serious penalties for divulging sensitive information in a public space, and likely for using company time for personal gain.
It makes a great “hard done by blogger” story, but the company itself may have every right to let Kriel go.
(Via African Path)