1.5 Billion Damages For Hackman-Owusu
The Fast Track High Court in Accra yesterday ordered the Editor of the Ghanaian Post, Mr Ralph Asiamah, the Ghanaian Post newspaper and its publisher, Post Communications Group, to pay ¢1.5 billion as damages for libelous materials they published against Mr Hackman Owusu-Agyeman, the former minister of the interior.
The court, which restrained the defendants from further writing and publishing defamatory materials against the plaintiff, said “the court concludes that the plaintiff is entitled to exemplary damages because the publication was accentuated by malice”.
The court, presided over by Mr Justice G.A. Aryeetey, also ordered the defendants to pay ¢50 million as cost.
Counsel for the plaintiff, Mr George Aborgah of Kulendi Law Chambers, Accra filed the suit on September 7, 2004, after the defendants had published materials alleging that the plaintiff was dismissed after 18 years as an employee of the Food and Agriculture Organisation for embezzling funds meant for agricultural projects in some African countries.
It said the court was able to establish that the index number which was quoted by the paper as being that of Mr Owusu-Agyeman while an employee of the UN was false.
The court further held that the plaintiff, who is now the minister for works and housing, had categorically denied all the claims by the paper with the argument that he was neither responsible for signing cheques nor handling moneys and could, therefore, not have embezzled any funds.
The court stated that the defendants failed to defend the story in court but went ahead and defended it on air.
According to the court, the defendants only contested the assessment of damages which stood at ¢2 billion being sought by the plaintiff, meaning they had admitted the claims by the plaintiff.
It expressed concern over what it termed as “aggressive and irresponsible journalism” being practiced in certain quarters and urged the media to be circumspect in their reportage, as well as respect the human rights of Ghanaians.