Johannesburg – Reliance on social media posts and pictures to prosecute a terrorism case against the Thulsie twins is misguided and has serious implications for our freedoms, says CAGE Africa.
Many South Africans may access internet content because they are interested in the situation in the Middle East or they may be curious about the views of a wide range of Islamic scholars on issues. They may also post statements on social media that may be emotionally charged.
These are not credible or reliable indicators that individuals are planning to or are about to commit acts of violence. Drawing such an inference reflects a worrying bias and ideological prejudice. It also has the effect of criminalising ideas and belief, and has severe implications for freedom of expression, conscience, belief and the right to access information.
That pictures tell a thousand words may be true. But what are those words? What do they mean? Who interprets them and for what purpose are they interpreted in a specific manner? These are questions that must be asked of the state.
We know all too well that bias, prejudice, malice, and even over zealousness may transform the interpretation of innocuous pictures into “evidence” of criminality.
The state’s use of certain pictures to implicate the Thulsie twins is a case in point. One of the matters relied upon by the investigating officer in his affidavit opposing bail is that the accused are posing with what appears to be an automatic rifle and what appears to be a bomb belt and detonator, which corresponds closely with an explosive vest warn by a suicide bomber.
The family of the Thulsie twins say that the photos of Sallahuddin and Yakeen, 23, holding “weapons” were taken when they were playing paint ball which is a hobby of theirs. This obvious misinterpretation by the state has had calamitous consequences for the twins. The objective facts show that this was nothing more than a paint ball gun and accessories. It is shocking that the chief investigating officer did not know the difference.
The criminalisation of the term ‘jihad’ also has worrying implications. The term ‘jihad’ or ‘struggle’ is used by many Muslims every day. It can mean a struggle against oppressive forces, or a spiritual struggle, or a struggle against the lower urges of the self. The word ‘jihad’ is in the Qu’ran which is read every day by billions.
Karen Jayes, spokesperson for CAGE Africa, says:
“Whilst we must and will respect the court’s decision, we are deeply concerned that the use by the state of social media postings and the criminalisation of terms like ‘jihad’ has the potential to cause much fear and self-censorship by social media users and may alienate people from society by discouraging interaction. Such a state of affairs drives unpopular views underground where they have the potential to grow unmitigated by open debate.”
“Muslims must now fear participating in paint ball games or having paint ball equipment because this may later be interpreted to show signs of a particular mind set. The same goes for the term ‘jihad’.”
“The right to privacy demands that citizens must be safeguarded from intrusion, surveillance and entrapment by the state. This case has shown us that the state is willing to conduct surveillance online. It has also raised fears that it may go so far as using informers that participate in certain online forums in order to garner information. This is an alarming state of affairs that demands interrogation.”
“We reiterate our call for a fair trial, and for the twins to be presumed innocent until proven guilty.”
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(NOTE: CAGE represents cases of individuals based on the remit of our work. Supporting a case does not mean we agree with the views or actions of the individual. Content published on CAGE may not reflect the official position of our organisation.)