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24.10.2005 Crime & Punishment

Court Hears Edumadze Tapes

By Ghanaian Chronicle
Court Hears Edumadze Tapes
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Cape Coast -- A DEFAMATION case pending before the Cape Coast High Court in which Nana Kofi Coomson, the Publisher of The Chronicle had sued the Central Regional Minister, Mr Isaac Edumadze for damage to his reputation has been adjourned to October 26 for hearing.

Counsel of the plaintiff, Mr. Dominic DeGraft Aidoo and the defendant Lawyer Mr. Ebo Dawson agreed on Wednesday October 26, as the hearing date, following the inability of the presiding Judge, Justice Nana Gyamera to show up because he was indisposed.

The case was supposed to have been heard last Thursday but the court clerk informed the two lawyers about the condition of the judge.

Last Wednesday, there was fireworks at the court, when Nana Kofi Coomson was led in evidence and was cross-examined. He recollected his experience as an investigative journalist and the ordeal he had gone through.

He told the court that as an investigative journalist, his work was to keep public officials accountable and similarly protect individual rights and liberties in the country. He said that he had been confronted with attacks from some public officials, who felt he and the paper he founded were hard on them.

He maintained that corrupt public officials may not be too fond of him because he frequently subjected them to scrutiny as his profession and constitution requires of him, going on to say that he had paid a price, including a spell in prison custody as a direct consequence of his pursuits and his fight for true democracy in the country.

In answer to a barrage of questions about his background, The Publisher of The Chronicle revealed that he learnt his trade in Nigeria where the brand of journalism was largely of the investigative genre as far back as 1978 when he was very young. He added that he rose to be an editor by 1980 in Nigeria. He confirmed that he is acknowledged to be the premier exponent of investigative journalism in Ghana, going to win the paper of the year in 1992, the journalist of the year in 1993 and retaining the title in 1994 when no journalist was found on the field to take the title.

Nana Coomson told the court that he won an award to study for one academic year at Harvard University, having been picked as one of 12 non-American journalists worldwide to be Nieman scholars at the American University. Pressed further, Mr. Coomson said he used to be the President of the Private Newspaper Publishers Association of Ghana, holds a Masters degree in Communications and Media Management and that he was actually studying for a Post Graduate course in Law in Leicester, England when he received calls from people in Ghana, and other parts of the world about the 'shocking' claims by Isaac Edumadze.

He told the court that since the allegation was made by a man who is the representative of the President in the region, it carried weight and made his friends and family very anxious and some even believed it. Edumadze had refused to apologise to him when he was given the opportunity.

To prove his case of defamation, plaintiff counsel, tendered in evidence a cassette, which was a recording of submissions on Peace FM, a local radio station in Accra as the evidence of defamation case against Mr. Edumadze.

The cassette was played in the judge's chamber, to the hearing of Lawyer Ebow Dawson, counsel for the defendant and Mr Albert Nathaniel Essuman, the NPP central regional secretary who has been representing the regional Minister ever since the case started over two years ago.

Mr Edumadze was said to have made disparaging remarks about the plaintiff, following an article published by Chronicle reporter Mr. Dominic Jale in The Chronicle in 2003 that he had put up a building estimated at ยข1 billion near his hometown.

He said that he was so shocked when he heard that Edumadze was attacking him over the story even though the tape that was played demonstrated that the reporter was himself publicly telling the world how he investigated and wrote the story about Edumadze and his 'country home'.

He said he requested for the tape of the defamatory allegations to be couriered to him in England and when he was certain that he had heard it for himself, he asked his lawyers to institute an action to clear his name.

On his part defending counsel, Mr. Dawson noted that Edumadze did not directly accuse Coomson of taking bribe from a politician, but merely said there were rumours, a suggestion that was denied.

Departing from one line of cross examination, the lawyer moved to the subject of the popularity of the publisher and his accomplishments 'You are a very well known person, are you not?'

'You are being hailed as hero and a champion of private free education in the western region, are you not'.

'Thou sayest!' Coomson responded repeating the same response when the question was repeated, drawing a reaction from Mr. Dawson that he wanted a direct answer. It took the judge to intervene and accept the answer as valid.

Mr. Dawson stated that no one called Kofi Coomson when the news broke, but Coomson said not only did his own reporters call him, but his manager, friends in the US and within UK called, and proceeded to mention names of people who also had a change of attitude towards him following the broadcast.

The cross-examination which continued for two days is set to continue at the next adjourned date.

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