NEWS
06/06/2018 15:20 BST | Updated 07/06/2018 10:05 BST

What Happens If Somizi Does Lay A Charge Against Lia Meyer?

She could possibly lay a counter charge, but even then, it's not a clear-cut case.

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Somizi Mhlongo.

Media personality Somizi Mhlongo has threatened to lay charges against Lia Meyer, a social media user whose account tweeted that he was a "homosexual k****tjie", while managing to misspell the slur.

According to a Netwerk24 report, Meyer was under sedation on Tuesday evening. She claims not to have sent the tweet, and that she in no way supported its sentiment, but that hasn't quelled the abuse she is receiving online.

HuffPost spoke to Professor Wian Erlank, an advocate and associate professor in law at North-West University, who believes that as much as it's possible for Somizi to lay a charge of hate speech, it will not be a clear-cut case.

"He can lay charges in terms of the criminal law, [but it] will have to be proven that the alleged user posted hate speech, and that it was not done by a hacker. This is a more difficult case to prove.

"It will depend. [Somizi] would have to decide if he wants to institute a civil claim or a lay a criminal charge at a police station. This might also then be taken up by human rights lawyers, but in this case, it might be difficult to prove.

"He could also institute a civil claim for damages or defamation, which is easier to prove but once again, he would then have to counter the averment that the account was hacked," Erlank told HuffPost.

In her defence, Meyer said her account had been hacked, and that she did not take responsibility for the sentiments expressed in the tweet.

Erlank said if there is a case opened and it makes it to court, she would have to prove that her account was indeed hacked.

He added: "It's possible of course that the account was hacked — but if you use that defence in court, it'd be a he-said, she-said situation. But it will be possible to get an idea whether or not the account was hacked. One would need to spend some time and money, [and would need] cooperation from the social media app concerned, to investigate that claim."

Erlank said that Meyer might even have a counterclaim for defamation against Somizi, "because he accused her of hate speech and being racist. An argument [could] be made, [if] it was not her who posted, [that this gives] grounds for a counterclaim.

"Another thing that could also arise from this, hypothetically speaking if any of this comes to trial, would be a case of incitement to violence. This is because, in pursuit of the alleged perpetrator, he invited his followers to find her — but even that is subject to the interpretation," he said.

NOTE: A previous edition of this story stated that Lia Meyer was reportedly a student at the University of Pretoria. Upon further engagements with the university, it has since come to light that, despite reports stating that she was, Lia is not currently enrolled at the institution.

This story has been edited to indicate this.

HuffPost apologises for any inconvenience caused.