Archer’s Apology Not Worth Newsprint Space
The call by the Ghana National Media Commission (NMC) for Mr. Raymond Archer to publish two consecutive apologies in the Enquirer newspaper, edited by Mr. Archer, is dead on target. The latter is reported to have personally disparaged Justice Henrietta Abban, the Accra high-court judge who sentenced Mr. Tsatsu Tsikata to six years of imprisonment for causing financial loss to the State. The nature of the disparagement appeared in the form of a newspaper banner headline captioned: “The Beauty Queen Who Jailed Tsatsu” (Ghanaweb.com 12/27/08).
In essence, such personally disparaging media publication comes under the actionable, or justiciable, offense of libel, particularly in view of the fact that the culprit appears to have maliciously intended to gratuitously hurt the personality and image, or hard-earned reputation, of Justice Abban. In other words, while the Enquirer's editor reserves the democratic right to free speech and expression, the basis and context of such ordinarily, or otherwise, protected speech is what is at issue, and not the mere fact that Mr. Archer made a disparaging personal remark against Justice Abban.
For starters, Justice Abban was not appointed to the court on the purely tangential, or subjective, basis of her physical mien or appearance. Rather, it was primarily her laudable academic and professional qualifications that caused the Ghanaian Judicial Service and the Government to name her to the bench. Thus in making a snide issue out of her physical appearance or demeanor, rather than the quality of her judgment, the Enquirer editor had grossly and abjectly overstepped his professional bounds.
Traditionally, such malicious and caddish remark made by a man to a woman is invariably and indisputably considered to be laden with sexist connotations; and judging by the photograph of Justice Abban, as published on the website of Myjoyonline.com, it is incontrovertibly clear that, indeed, Mr. Archer, a diehard Tsikata supporter and fanatical media advocate and impudent propagandist, intended to do massive emotional, and even physical, harm to Justice Abban.
Having thus clinically, and or objectively, established the traditionally requisite Test of Malice, the way is logically paved for the intended target of harm, and or injury, in this instance Justice Abban (or even the Ghana Judicial Service, the initiator of the complaint to the National Media Commission), to bring a libel suit against Mr. Raymond Archer, the culprit, and his Enquirer newspaper.
Needless to say, it is rather infantile and downright pathetic for Mr. Archer to cavalierly presume to reserve the unfettered and inalienable right, under Ghana's Fourth-Republican Constitution's Freedom of Speech provision, to launch a vitriolic and mordant attack on the congenital physical appearance and personality of a judicial officer strictly and diligently about the course of the performance of the duties for which she was legitimately appointed by the Ghana Judicial Service and the Government.
In his response to the National Media Commission's all too logical request that he promptly apologize to Justice Henrietta Abban, the aggrieved target of such boorish media abuse, Mr. Archer claimed, rather unwisely, that he had not been granted the opportunity to present his side of the matter, which clearly appears to be absolutely devoid of merit – for the culprit merely claims his constitutional right of free speech as sufficient protection against libeling a respectable member of the Ghanaian judiciary, for no other reason than Mr. Archer's visceral abhorrence of Justice Abban's verdict in the Tsikata case.
Unless, for instance, the Enquirer's editor and his paper can plausibly claim to have impugned the physical appearance, or mien, of Justice Abban for the sole and provable purpose of liberally funding their victim's cosmetic beautification, Mr. Archer had better be prepared for a drawn-out libel suit. And even if the Enquirer editor's intent in publishing the libelous caption about Justice Abban is proven to have been underlain by a “charitable” gesture, of which we are in serious doubt, of course, the sticking point which needs resolving regards the question of whose legitimate judgment call it is to determine whether Justice Abban, in fact, desires or requires such cosmetic surgical “upgrade” or “uplift.” Then also arises the question of precisely what would such cosmetic surgical procedure bring to bear on the intellectual temperament and the perceived judicial competence, or the lack thereof, of Justice Henrietta Abban, at least in the opinion of the Enquirer editor.
My gut reaction, though, is to charitably suggest that Mr. Archer seek prompt psychiatric examination, and or psychological counseling, particularly in view of the Enquirer editor's rather silly and downright sophomoric assertion that: “If we cannot say that somebody is beautiful[,] it means that we cannot say that somebody is ugly. What kind of media freedom is this? (Myjoyonline.com 12/27/08).
Vis-à-vis the preceding quote, it is shockingly obvious that the notorious perpetrator of libel does not seem to be possessed of the requisite moral and intellectual gravitas to fully appreciate the fact that in any civilized society, including Ghana, of course, the context of communication is as relevant and significant as the content and intent of that which is communicated.
On another level, though, we are not the least bit surprised that Mr. Raymond Archer would stoop so low as to invidiously color his assessment of the quality of judgment of a reputable Ghanaian high-court judge with his purely personal dislike and/or animosity for the subject in question. We are absolutely not the least bit surprised because not quite awhile ago, the same Enquirer editor and one of the notorious Ahwoi brothers, a lecturer at the Ghana Institute of Management and Public Administration (GIMPA), if memory serves us accurately, faked an assault incident in which Mr. Archer reportedly splattered himself with tomato sauce, or some such substance, and went to the police hysterically claiming to have been brutally assaulted by unidentified hired guns of the ruling New Patriotic Party (NPP). It shortly turned out that the entire incident had been amateurishly, albeit criminally, staged in a calculated bid to blotching the otherwise enviable human and civil rights record and image of the NPP government.
The sad reality, however, was that rather than send an unmistakably deterrent message that quack journalism would not be tolerated in the facile and dubious name of free speech, the presiding judge, curiously, let the shameless and evidently unconscionable Mr. Archer off the hook, as it were.
*Kwame Okoampa-Ahoofe, Jr., Ph.D., is Associate Professor of English, Journalism and Creative Writing at Nassau Community College of the State University of New York, Garden City. He is the author of 18 books, including “Ghanaian Politics Today” (Atumpan Publications/lulu.com, 2008). E-mail: [email protected]
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