Facebook loudmouth fined N$20k

08 April 2021 | Local News

JANA-MARI SMITH



WINDHOEK

A Mariental doctor has won a defamation suit against a man who in 2018 made public claims on Facebook accusing the doctor of manhandling an “old woman”, arrogance and medical negligence.

High Court judge Nate Ndauendapo ruled in favour of Dr Berit David Platt, and ordered the defendant Arnoldus ‘Sydney’ Apols to cough up N$20 000 in damages. Apols was also labelled as “arrogant” by Ndauendapo, who in his judgment dismissed the defence that he had no other options but to post his complaints to Facebook.

“Facebook is a powerful tool used by people such as the defendant [Apols] to defame and ruin the reputation of innocent people and the only way for those aggrieved by such malicious and defamatory posts is to approach the courts for appropriate relief,” he said in his strongly worded judgment.

Wasn’t even there

The post that is costing Apols N$20 000 was published on 6 November 2018. He admitted he was not present when the incident he described in the post occurred and added that he said the doctor was arrogant and disrespectful based on what he had heard.

The post is still available on Apols’ page, despite the court’s order for it to be removed and for him to publish a public apology on the platform.

By 7 April, a day after the judgment was made public on the online justice platform, the post had been shared more than 120 times, and dozens of comments - including some calling on Apols to physically attack the doctor - remained public.

During the trial, Platt told the court that in the wake of the Facebook post, he noticed a steep drop in the number of patients visiting his practice. He also testified that he received threats that he would be attacked.

The health ministry’s chief medical officer for the Hardap Region, Platt had originally sued Apols for N$100 000 in March 2019.

Platt was represented by Frieda Schulz from Neves Legal Practitioners, while Apols’ legal representative was Tukondjeni Nanhapo of Brockerhoff and Associates.