Regulator warns against distribution of jailed Zuma images

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The Information Regulator (IR) has issued a stern warning to those who have unlawfully accessed and distributed images of incarcerated former president Jacob Zuma, saying there will be harsh consequences.

Zuma was admitted to the Estcourt Correctional Centre last week after handing himself over to police after being sentenced to 15 months in prison, for failing to testify at the State Capture Inquiry.

Since his incarceration, some people have been circulating images of him while at the KwaZulu-Natal-based correctional centre.

In a statement, the IR highlights that the Protection of Personal Information Act (POPIA), which kicked in on 1 July, prohibits the distribution of personal information without the consent of the individual that is being identified in the item being distributed.

“The IR notes with concern the photographs of former president Jacob Zuma distributed through social media taken at a facility of the Department of Correctional Services (DCS). The regulator reminds the public that photographs clearly identifying an individual are regarded as personal information in terms of the POPIA, and that distribution of such material is regarded as processing of personal information in terms of the Act,” notes the statement.

As such, the information watchdog says it has since sent a letter to the DCS requesting the departmental measures that are in place to safeguard and prevent loss and unlawful access of personal information, such as photographs of new inmates.

The regulator has also requested the current status on this matter and the steps the DCS has taken to mitigate any alleged breach.

“We urge the public to be informed about the rights of individuals in so far as the law is concerned and not engage in action that violates another person’s rights or the provisions of the Act through distribution of personal information without consent of the data subject.”

The regulator further notes that it expects the necessary corrective action will be taken by the DCS to ensure those found to be in breach of the law are held accountable and that similar breaches of the law are not repeated.

Those who are found to be in contravention of POPIA will be liable for criminal charges, and can receive a fine or be sentenced to imprisonment.

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