Wikimedia ZA Douglas Scott, responds


Dear David,

I am writing in reply to the email (and attached letter) you sent the legal department at the Wikimedia Foundation on the 6 August 2018 (and copying me in on) in my capacity as the organising chairperson of Wikimania 2018.

It is with great regret that I learnt of your removal from Wikimania 2018 in Cape Town.  You have been an editor on Wikipedia for many years now and have attended Wikimedia ZA events in the past which is why Wikimedia ZA granted you a complementary ticket to attend Wikimania 2018.  The the best of my knowledge you are correct that you did not attend WikiIndaba in Tunisia; James was mistakenly referring to another individual based upon incorrect information given to him.

A few points on how Wikimania is run.  Hosting a Wikimania is a group effort between the local organising team (of which I am a member), the Wikimedia Foundation host team (who assist in many of the more practical aspects of hosting Wikimania), and the Wikimedia community broadly (who host the individual events, workshops and presentations that make up the conference).

Community derived events which makes up the vast majority of events at Wikimania were hosted by community members who applied to host them or present.  Their applications were passed by the program committee.  The program committee is made up of a group of volunteer Wikipedia community members whose responsibility it is to select presentations that will be hosted during the main conference.  Public announcements (advertised both through mailing lists and banner adds on Wikipedia) were made over the course of a month this year during which any community member could apply to give a presentation or host an event during the main conference.

The program committee sought to select events based on their fit to the theme of bridging knowledge gaps.  You refer to the absence of any event dealing ‘apartheid memory’.  If someone had made an application to host an event or presentation talking about that then the program committee would have seriously considered accepting such a presentation.   However to the best of my knowledge no one made any such applications.  Therefore there were no discussions on that subject.  In the future I would suggest applying to give such a presentation if you hope to see one happening.  Be bold (but not abrasive).

Some events were large full day or multiple day events.  Such events could only be hosted during the pre-conference due to logistical reasons.  The Decolonising the Internet event was one such event.

Events such as the Decolonising the Internet, the event which you are referring to, was a community hosted event.   The organiser of that particular event elected to make it invitation only and I support their right to make that call. They would have had a process to apply to be part of that event if you had wished to attend.  I am not aware of any application you made to attend their event.

What ever the cause you were not on the invitation list and therefore had no right to attend that particular event.  You were not alone in this, I also did not apply to attend that event and so was also not able to attend.  That is why you were not allowed to attend that particular event.  I am told that you had a long conversation with the event organiser that was respectful and considerate and parted ways amicably.  If things had remained at that then everyone would have moved on and you would have been free to continue to attend Wikimania.

Attending any Wiki related event such as Wikimania also comes with responsibilities by all present.  One of the most important ones is to respect the community’s Friendly Space policy that allows for a positive space for all who attend to feel welcome, accepted and part of our diverse community. After being informed of your expulsion I am told by multiple sources that you violated that Friendly Space policy by filming people and engaging in actions there were interpreted as “harassment, bullying, intimidation.”

Filming and photographing people at Wikimania is a complicated issue as a significant number of people are not comfortable being photographed or filmed.  Some for personal reasons, some for very real reasons relating to political oppression within their own countries and such recordings could put them at personal risk.  As someone with experience of political oppression it is my hope that you can sympathise with this very real concern.

You applied for and were granted a complementary registration by Wikimedia ZA in your capacity as a long time South African Wikipedia editor and member of the Wikimedia community. To the best of my knowledge, I will need to look into this, you never registered as a journalist at Wikimania.  However that is presides the point as people are still free to report from Wikimania.  We encourage people who self identify as members of the press to please register as such as it makes it easier for organisers to give better access to journalists to sources and information they might be interested in. It also allows us to brief them on the sensitivity of photographing some individuals at the conference so as to avoid issues such as this and respect their wishes.

In the context of your position as a journalist.  I would also like to bring to your attention to section 4.1 on page 11 of theSouth African Press Council’s Code of Ethics which states that “The press shall exercise exceptional care and consideration in matters involving the private lives and concerns of individuals, bearing in mind that any right to privacy may be overridden only by a legitimate public interest.”  We failed to see how filming people against their will was in the legitimate public interest.  Instead we can only conclude that filming people at Wikimania against their wishes despite repeated requests from individuals to stop doing so was in fact a violation of the South African Press Council’s Code of Ethics.

You were filming people against their will and despite repeated requests to stop.  That is why you were removed from the conference.

Additionally you engaged in behaviour online, via Twitter, that brought the Wikimedia Foundation and the event organisers into disrepute.  This is a violation of Wikimedia ZA’s code of conduct for members.

Regards,
Douglas Scott.

ED NOTE: see my earlier complaint here

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