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07.06.2005 General News

Minister drags "Insight" to court


Accra, June 7, GNA - Mr Hackman Owusu-Agyemang, Minister of Works and Housing, has filed a two billion-cedi suit against the "Insight" newspaper and two others for libel at an Accra Fast Track High Court. Apisawu Peter Kojo of Accra and Militant Publication Limited are among the defendants.

Hearing of the suit, which commenced on Tuesday, has been adjourned to June 9.

In his statement of claim, Mr Owusu-Agyemang is also seeking perpetual injunction restraining the defendants' agents, workmen, privies from further writing, and printing or publishing similar statements defamatory to the Minister.

It is also praying the court for further cost.

The statement of claim said the Apisawu was the Acting Editor of the "Insight", an Accra weekly newspaper that has a substantial circulation in and around Ghana.

"The Militant Publication Limited Accra, are printers and publishers of the "Insight".

It stated that between February 2001 and April 2003, Mr Owusu-Agyemang was the Foreign Minister and a Former Civil Servant and Diplomat known within the international and diplomatic community.

On the front page of the "Insight" of October 6 -7 issue of 2004, the defendants published an article headlined "Hackman Warns PHC, We Will Take Drastic Measure Against You".

The publication said Mr Owusu-Agyemang had "warned Messrs PHC Motors Limited for refusing to sign what sources say was a dubious and fraudulent contract".

This, the Minister noted was defamatory.

He said the publication stated further; "sources to PHC Motors told a reporter of the paper that due to the 'vague and dubious nature of the contract' PHC decided to pull out from the agreement and 'this is why we did not supply the vehicles'".

The publication stated further, that the Minister, who was not happy with the decision by the Company expressed his 'dismay' at the decisions by PHC Motors and accused it of "doing very little to push" the deal. The publication continued that Mr Owusu-Agyemang consequently wrote to warn PHC "if within two months the greater proportion of the 150 vehicles " does not arrive, "the government shall take measures with the obvious negative impact on the relations".

According to the publication, "Mr Hackman, therefore, advised PHC to "do everything possible to expedite the arrival of the vehicles" in their own interest.

Mr Owusu-Agyemang said the defendants knew or ought to have known that the said publication was not true and yet published same to cause hatred, disparage, ridicule and injure him.

The statement of claim noted that in the natural and ordinary meaning, the said words were understood to mean that Mr Owusu-Agyemang had a questionable character or was a dishonest man.

The statement of claim said the Minister's reputation as a politician, a public officer, a former international civil servant, a diplomat and a businessman had been seriously injured and he had suffered considerable distress, pain and embarrassment.

It said Mr Owusu-Agyemang's prospect of being re-elected to Parliament by his constituents had seriously being undermined and as a result he was compelled to spend more resources and time to persuade his admirers on the falsity of the said publication.

He contended that Defendants had waged and continued to wage a sustained and restless assault on his reputation and his good name through the said publications.

"Unless restrained by this honourable court, the Defendants will continue to write, print and publish similar words defamatory of the plaintiff."

In their statement of the Defence, the Defendants "denied each and every material allegation of fact contained in the plaintiffs statement of claim".

The defendants contended that the words contained in the said publication were fair comments on a matter of public interest and were not words capable of defaming Mr Owusu-Agyemang.

The Defendants said Mr Owusu-Agymang was a public office holder and they had a duty to comment on any act of the plaintiff, which were not transparent, adding, "the defendants publication are, therefore, fair comment on a matter of public interest."