South Africa to Review Defendant Anonymity Laws

CAPE TOWN, South Africa—In the wake of the disclosure than a Labor Party member of the South African parliament has been charged by police with four counts of child pornography, the government says it is going to reviews laws that prevent the disclosure of the name of individuals accused of such crimes.

“Premier Mike Rann on Tuesday told parliament the ban on naming the accused, a prohibition in evidence laws since 1976, had caused public disquiet,” the Brisbane Times reported.

"The relatively recent development of the internet and, especially, social media has meant that the name of an accused is often published extensively within a very short time," Rann is quoted as saying. “Such publication is difficult to monitor and makes enforcement virtually impossible. In those circumstances, the rationale of the prohibition is further called into question."

Though the accused MP cannot be named in the media, the Times says his identity is being bandied about online, particularly on Facebook and in numerous tweets. The law is in place to protect the reputation of those unfairly accused, but in light of the fact that many jurisdictions allow the identification of alleged sex offenders, Rann said he has asked Attorney General John Rau to arrange an independent review of SA law.

"I am particularly interested in hearing expert advice and community views about whether the prohibition should be abolished and, if so, whether other measures are required to protect or restore the reputation of those acquitted," he said.

Monday, despite a conviction on the charges, the unnamed MP was suspended from the Labor Party and not allowed to take his seat in parliament Tuesday afternoon.