A Fast Track High Court in the Ghanaian capital Accra on February 27, 2014, fined privately-owned newspaper, Daily Guide, an amount of GH¢250,000 (about US$ 100,000 ) in damages, for publishing a defamatory article against the General Secretary of the ruling National Democratic Congress, Johnson Asiedu Nketiah.
The presiding judge, Justice Abodakpi also slapped the newspaper with an additional cost of GH¢15,000 (about US$6000).
According to MFWA’s correspondent, the newspaper in its March 2, 2011, edition published an article titled “Asiedu Nketia’s Plush Mansions” in which it alleged that Nketiah had used his position as chairman of a state-owned power generation entity, Bui Power Authority, to divert materials to put up his personal building.
In the said article, the newspaper quoted Nketiah as saying “I’m not talking to you because anytime you call and I tell you the truth about what I know, you still go ahead and publish things against me so you may go and publish what you want to publish,’ he said amidst threats that ‘I will take my decision. If it is libellous, I will deal with you” when they contacted him for his side of the story.
The newspaper went ahead and published the story. Nketiah subsequently sued it and its publisher, Western Publication Limited for libel and demanded exemplary damages of GH¢1 million (about US$400,000).
This is the second newspaper to be fined by a court this month. On February 4, Justice Uuter Paul Dery, a Accra Fast Track High Court judge fined a privately-owned newspaper The Informer an amount of GH¢ 300,000 (about US$120,000) in damages and cost for publishing a defamatory article against a timber processing company, Evans Timbers.
The said article, titled, “Why Evans Timbers Got Mpiani to Collapse One-Stop Collection Point” was published in the January 13, 2010 issue of the newspaper. The article alleged that the then Chief of Staff Kwadwo Mpiani used his position and his friendship with the owner of the timber company Evans Adusei, to help the company to clear goods at the port without proper documentation. It is also said the timber company also under-invoiced and evaded taxes.
Considering the Ghanaian media environment, these fines are quite severe and could seriously affect the operations of the newspapers. The MFWA regrets these incidents and will encourage people to resort to the statutory regulatory body, the National Media Commission, in resolving disputes with the media. At the same time, we call on the Ghanaian media and journalists to always adhere to ethical standards in their work.
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