German publisher hits back at SA blogger’s penned-up anger
Firm says journo broke the law by posting secretly recorded conversation about pay on Instagram
German publishing house Gestalten says it has reported SA journalist Malibongwe Tyilo to its lawyers for secretly recording a conversation with a staff member and posting it on Instagram. It says it could land him a European prison term.
Tyilo, a fashion blogger and Johannesburg-based journalist, has challenged the European firm publicly for refusing to pay a two-year-old invoice for a book chapter he wrote. The invoice is for €1,000.
He turned to Instagram to shame the company because it refused to take his phone calls over the past few weeks, he said.
Tyilo wrote a chapter for a book on African design, Africa Rising.
He posted on Instagram last week: “It is ridiculous that the people behind a book that claims to celebrate African creativity refuse to pay for the very African creativity that makes the book possible.
“We must watch out for these people that come thru claiming to be about us, but actually continue the same old culture of extracting from and exploiting Africans, with no intention of fair exchange. Shame on you @gestalten”.
Last week Tyilo secretly recorded a phone conversation with the head of operations from Gestalten, Iris Hempelmann, and published 10 minutes of it on Instagram.
In the recording, which Tyilo played for Times Select, a woman he claims is Hempelmann says: “So depicting us in a way that we are a company that exploits people and even worse by trying to instrumentalise other creatives from your community and get them on board ... this is really not going to lead to a good outcome.”
“Is that a threat I will not get paid?” Tyilo asks the woman. She denies it is a threat.
He claims he repeatedly sent the company e-mails between May and August 2016 with invoices, which were ignored. In November 2016 Gestalten sent him an e-mail saying they were restructuring and promising to get in touch. But he says he never heard from them again.
Company spokesperson Robert Klanten told Times Select Tyilo should have sent a new invoice after the company was restructured in November 2016. The deadline for receiving invoices was July 30 2018. “The Gestalten restructuring process was terminated by the court on June 30 2018. Any claim made until June 30 has been fully addressed and paid. As Mr Tyilo failed to register his claim in time, he has no claim against us.
“We do not owe him any money. We have behaved 100% legal. The court has diligently supervised the process and approved that no irregularities have happened in the process.”
Klanten said publishing a secretly recorded conversation was illegal under European law.
“Recording a conversation without permission and publishing it as Mr Tyilo did is a felony by European law, which may be punished with one to five years in prison in Europe. “Our lawyers are pursuing all legal options.”
Klanten was adamant he considered what Tyilo had done criminal and that they “don’t owe him a cent”.
Tyilo said the company had not made an effort to contact him to tell him the payment period was being closed by the court.
He said he published the saga online so freelancers could learn to protect themselves from non-payment.
Social media lawyer Verlie Oosthuizen said that in SA the law allowed people to secretly record conversations they were part of.
Publishing a secretly recorded conversation would only be a crime if the purpose of publishing the secretly recorded call was illegal.
“Therefore, if you are being legally technical about it, if the journalist was intercepting the conversation in order to injure the reputation of the German publishing house, which could be criminal defamation, that may be an offence in terms of the Regulation of Interception of Communications and Provision of Communication-Related Information Act.”
Oosthuizen said for Tyilo to face European law that criminalises what he did, he would have to be extradited to Germany.