Court rules against Graphic, Brit. Council AN ACCRA Fast Track High Court has ruled against the state-owned Daily Graphic and the British Council, Ghana, jointly and severally, for publishing defamatory articles against the City of London Business College, a Ghanaian UK based institution.
Dr. Justice P.K. Owusu-Ansah, an Appeal Court judge, sitting as an additional High Court judge, delivering his ruling on July 8, this year, said there was overwhelming evidence before the court that the words complained of by the plaintiff, Mr. Osei Asibey Kwateng, the College's proprietor, were libelous.
The court further granted an order of perpetual injunction to restrain the defendants or their servants or agents from publishing the said words or any of them or any similar words to the like.
The judge also ordered the defendants to publish a retraction on the same page in the same newspaper within 21 days and awarded general and special damages to the plaintiff.
The facts of the case were that The Daily Graphic in its Monday, August 27, 2001 made a publication entitled “This school is fake.”
In the said publication the Daily Graphic emphatically stated that City of London Business College is fake.
The second defendant, British Council, also came out with a publication entitled “British Council explains the case of fake college.”
The plaintiff - City of London Business College deemed the publication as libelous hence it brought action against Graphic Communication Group Ltd. and British Council, claiming damages and other reliefs against the defendants jointly and severally for defamation.
Justice Owusu –Ansah in his judgment stated that in his view there is an overwhelming evidence before the Court that the words complained of by plaintiff were libelous and were published by the first defendant and then jointly and severally by the defendants, and “is of and concerning the plaintiff.”
The judge said that if the plaintiff had made any -extravagant claim overtly or covertly that it is the same as the City of London College or that it is accredited by the British Accreditation Council, the publication would have been warranted.
He said it would have been a noble attempt by the defendants to set the record straight, but in this case he found that the plaintiff had made no such claim.” “Wherein lies the need to comment on a statement which had not been made,” the judge said, adding that there must be an ulterior motive to promote one at the expense of the other.
Justice Owusu-Ansah said Mihiri Vithanage, the Acting Education Officer of the British Council in the UK to whom requests were allegedly made by 2nd defendant responded on August 17, 2001: “This City of London - Business College definitely exists as an educational Institution as I did contact them over the telephone what I will do today is to Contact them again and request for a prospectus,”
According to him, this statement by the officer was further evidence in support of, or reinforced the plaintiff's case that the college was not “fake.”
The judge stated that, in his judgment, on the September 24, the 2nd defendant appeared to have made a belated attempt to undo the damage already done, thus the “we withdraw any reference contained in our letter dated August 29 to the editor of the Daily Graphic, which was published in that news paper on the September 10, 2001, that the City of London Business College is not a genuine institution” must be seen as a damage limitation exercise.
The learned judge in his judgment said, “All in all, I find as a fact that there is ample prima facie case of defamation of the plaintiff against each of the two defendants on the balance of probabilities having regard to the entirety of the evidence adduced the exhibits in support thereof as well as the erudite submissions of learned counsel.”
“I have also taken into consideration the mitigating factors and circumstances in the case of both defendants”, the Judge added.
Justice Owusu-Ansah said he found the publication had effect or the intention of discouraging prospective students into the plaintiff's college.
He concluded that the evidence before him overwhelmingly tilts the balance in favour of the plaintiff and tends to exclude any other rational hypothesis.
Justice Owusu-Ansah said he therefore found the defendants liable to the plaintiff in damages The Court also granted an order of perpetual injunction to restrain the defendants and each of them by themselves or their servants and agents from publication of the said words or any of them or any similar article.
Mr. Prosper Nyahe was the counsel for the plaintiff, while Mr. Tony Lithur was the Counsel for the paper.
Mrs. Efua Ghartey was the counsel for the British Council.