Ghana ALERT: Newspaper wins a seven-year old defamation case, editor fined for contempt

Ghana’s Supreme Court awarded 2,000 GH Cedis (about US$1400) in favour of privately-owned Accra-based The Daily Dispatch newspaper, its editor, reporter and publisher, Ben Ephson, Akwasi Mensah and Allied News Limited respectively, as legal costs, in a defamation case brought against them in 2003.

The five-member panel unanimously dismissed the defamation charges brought by a traditional chief, Daasebere Nana Osei Bonsu, paramount chief of Mampong Traditional Area in the Ashanti Region of Ghana.

Nana Bonsu brought the legal action following an April 9, 2003 petition that The Daily Dispatch reproduced in an article. The newspaper’s article headlined: “Mamponghene (Paramount chief of Mampong) in 26, 400 GH Cedis (about US$18,600) fraud” was to the effect that some aggrieved persons purporting to be acting on behalf of one Rosina Mensah, a US based Ghanaian, had accused the chief of collecting an amount of US$ 30, 000 with the promise of making her the queen mother of the area.

That was the second time that a court had ruled in favour of The Daily Dispatch in respect of this case. An Accra High Court presided over by Justice Victor Ofoe on October 18, 2004 dismissed the plaintiff’s case against the newspaper. However, on July 13, 2006, a Court of Appeal overturned the earlier ruling by the high court.

The defendants represented by Kweku Y. Painstil, unhappy with the Appeal’s Court decision, proceeded to the Supreme Court.

In an interview with the Media Foundation for West Africa (MFWA), Ben Ephson, the newspaper’s editor said the court ruling was a vindication of The Daily Dispatch’s editorial policy of publishing only the truth.

In another development, an Accra High Court on February 26 convicted Raymond Archer, editor-in-chief of the privately-owned The Enquirer newspaper with a fine of 2,400 GH Cedis (about US$1,700) for contempt of court or in default go to prison for two weeks in hard labour.

The conviction came after the newspaper had carried out an order by the court to retract and apologize for publishing a series of allegations against Akwasi Osei-Adjei, a former foreign minister, and another person standing trial on criminal charges of causing financial loss to the state. The newspaper had alleged that the two men were buying witnesses in the case in which they were being tried. The editor had not been able to prove his allegations to the court.

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