A High Court in Ghana’s capital, Accra, has found a powerful ruling party Member of Parliament (MP), Kennedy Agyapong, guilty of defaming renowned Ghanaian journalist, editor and publisher, Abdul Malik Kweku Baako.
The Court, presided over by Her Ladyship Justice Afia Serwah Asare-Botwe, awarded damages of GH¢100,000 (about USD $18,000) and costs of GH¢30,000 (about USD 5,000) against the MP. In addition, the Court ordered the MP to retract the defamatory statements he made against the journalist on various media platforms and networks, including Net 2 TV and Oman FM (which are owned by the MP), as well as on Adom TV and Asempa FM, which are two of the most influential media organisations in Ghana and on which the MP had made the defamatory comments. Besides, the MP is ordered to render an unqualified apology to Abdul Malik Kweku Baako.
“The Defendant is hereby ordered, within thirty (30) days of this judgment, to publish on three consecutive occasions, on the same platforms that he published the defamatory words, an unqualified retraction and an apology, with the same prominence as given to the issuance of the defamatory words against the plaintiff, ” Justice Afia Serwah Asare-Botwe ordered.
“To speak evil of anyone unless there is unequivocal proofs of their deserving it, is an injury for which there is no adequate reparation,” Justice Afia Serwah Asare-Botwe said during her June 26, 2020 ruling. “An order of perpetual injunction is hereby granted restraining the Defendant, his agents, assigns and servants from further publishing any defamatory words against the plaintiff,” the judge added.
The journalist had filed a defamation suit against the MP in October 2018. Baako, who is editor-in-chief of the New Crusading Guide newspaper, stated that the defendant defamed him “on July 18, 2018 and on several occasions thereafter” by labelling him as “dishonest”, “evil” and ‘corrupt” among other derogatory comments on several radio stations including his (Agyapong) own Net 2 TV and Oman FM.
Mr. Baako is a mentor of investigative journalist, Anas Aremeyaw Anas, and one of the investigative journalist’s staunch defenders in the wake of the Number 12 football corruption video that generated a lot of controversy. The legislator, on the other hand, used his own media platforms and his media engagements as an MP to wage a smear and hate campaign against the investigative journalist, his supporters and his investigative firm, the Tiger Eye PI.
As part of the hate campaign, Kennedy Agyapong widely publicised supposed pictures of Anas and Ahmed Suale, a member of Anas’ Tiger Eye PI’s team, including disclosure of where Suale lived and invited his followers to attack him wherever they met him. Suale was subsequently killed by unknown assailants on January 16, 2019. No one has been punished for the murder, and investigations by the Ghana police appear to have stalled.
Meanwhile, Kennedy Agyapong is facing a similar suit by Anas Aremeyaw Anas in respect of alleged defamatory statements he made about the journalist during a live programme a radio station on May 29, 2018.
The MFWA welcomes the court’s decision as a victory for the fight against impunity for crimes against journalists and a stern signal to the MP and his likes who wantonly abuse journalists. It is a victory for the rule of law and against impunity. We commend Kweku Baako for pursuing the matter to its logical conclusion, and hope that his example will inspire other journalists to take steps to fight for their rights at all times.