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13.07.2005 General News

Court awards ¢60 million damages against the "Independent"


Accra, July 13, GNA - An Accra High Court presided over by Mr Justice Yaw Appau, on Thursday awarded 60 million cedis in damages in favour of Mr Edward Annan, a Businessman, in a libel suit he brought against the Trans Afrika News Limited, publishers of "The Independent" newspaper, its Managing Editor and the News Editor. In addition, 10 million cedis was awarded as cost against the Defendants. Mr Justice Appau said: "I will enter judgement in Plaintiff's favour in respect of the first relief only for general damages and award him a compensatory sum of 20 million cedis against each of the three defendants, to cool off the hurt to his feelings." On Tuesday, May 27, 2003 "The Independent" carried a publication on its front page with a bold headline: "Recent Rumpus at GPHA Top NDC Man Exposed Over 60 Million Dollars Contract." Mr Annan, who thought his reputation had been damaged by the publication, commenced an action at the Accra High Court on May 29, 2003, against the three Defendants, claiming among other things, general damages, (including aggravated and exemplary damages) for libel.
In deciding on the amount to award as general damages, the Judge stated that he took into consideration the various apologies and retractions that the Defendants published on the front page of their newspaper, which in his view had gone a long way to redeem or cure the damage or injury caused to Mr Annan's reputation. "That was enough to disabuse people's minds on the wrong impressions created by the publication of May 27, 2003 against the Plaintiff. "What is left to be done by the Court is to compensate the Plaintiff in a reasonable sum that can cool off the hurt to his feelings and at the same time make the Defendants feel the pinch of their wrongful actions."
Mr Justice Appau noted: "I don't think it is the Defendants' money that the Plaintiff is seeking by the institution of this action. It is the redemption of his reputation as an international businessman that dictated Plaintiff's course of action."
Mr Annan's case was that he is a well-known businessman of repute with extensive business interests in Ghana. He said the article published by Trans Afrika News Limited was offensive and libellous. Mr Annan said the publication, which had no basis or foundation, did not end there as the Managing Editor repeated the same allegations contained in the publication when Radio Gold, an Accra-based FM radio station, interviewed him on the same day the publication was made. Mr Annan said this made him to rush back to Ghana from the United Kingdom to try and salvage his reputation.
Mr Annan contended that the words and innuendoes contained in the publication, described him as a high-ranking member of the National Democratic Congress (NDC) who, with other members of the Party, illegally, cynically and opportunistically participated in and profited from the corruption, theft or robbery of the wealth of the country, during the reign of the NCD government. He said the publication portrayed him as the most probable source of certain damaging media reports against the Director-General of the Ghana Ports and Harbours Authority (GPHA), regarding the award by GPHA of a contract to a Dutch Company, Interbeton, for the construction of a container terminal at the Tema Harbour, mainly because his preferred choice for the contract, China Harbour Engineering Limited, did not win the contract.
Mr Annan contended that by linking him to the NDC, Defendants' main aim was to create disfavour in the present ruling government against him to his detriment. He later sought leave of the Court to amend his writ of summons and statement of claim to include, a relief for special damages of (a) 773 pounds and (b) 52.08 million cedis as the cost of his plane ticket and legal fees, respectively. The Defendants filed a joint statement of defence on June 8, last year, in which they denied that the publication was calculated to disparage Mr Annan and his business. The Defendants, therefore, contended that Mr Annan was not entitled to any of the relief sought in his amended writ of summons.