The Accra High Court yesterday ordered the Editor of the Daily Guide newspaper, Mrs Gina Blay, and two others to open their defence in a libel suit brought against them by the Member of Parliament (MP) for Ningo Prampram, Mr E. T. Mensah.
The court also ordered the defendants, Mrs Blay, a cartoonist identified only as Akosua, and Western Publications Limited, publishers of the Daily Guide, to pay costs of ¢2 million in favour of the plaintiff.
The plaintiff, who is also the First Vice-Chairman of the National Democratic Congress (NDC), filed a libel suit against the newspaper following the publication of a cartoon portraying him as a sheep on the front page of its issue of August 30, 2005.
The plaintiff is praying the court to award jointly and severally general damages for libel in the cartoon, as well as award perpetual injunction restraining the defendants and their agents from further publishing such libellous materials.
However, instead of filing their defence, the defendants filed a conditional appearance and requested the court to dismiss the plaintiff's suit on the grounds that the plaintiff did not disclose a reasonable course of action.
The court, however, dismissed the defendants' application on the grounds that there was merit in the plaintiff's statement of claim.
It, accordingly, ordered the defendants to file their defence within seven days.
A statement of claim accompanying the plaintiff's writ stated that the newspaper printed an effigy of the plaintiff grafted onto the body of a sheep drawn by Akosua.
It said there was also a cartoon of the President, with the following dialogue between the President and the plaintiff: President Kufuor: Black, Black, Sheep, have you any wool? Yes Sir, Yes Sir, three bags full. Plaintiff: Mmeeh, Mmeeh.
A statement which was filed on behalf of the defendant by Bram-Larbi, Beecham and Co., legal practitioners, said on the background of the cartoon were the words, “Ningo Prampram Bridge”.
The plaintiff said the effigy which portrayed him as crying “Mmeeh, Mmeeh” in the publication referred to and was understood to mean that the caricature was the face of the plaintiff, with its tribal marks on all sides.
The statement of claim stated that the cartoon also meant that the plaintiff was the MP for Ningo Prampram Constituency, in which the Ningo Prampram Bridge was located.
According to the plaintiff, the publication of the said caricature of him meant he was not only sheepish but also foolish, had sycophantic traits and unfit to hold any office.
“Plaintiff says the said publication concerning and of him is absolutely false and unjustifiably libels him and assails his character, reputation and office as Member of Parliament and vice-chairman of the NDC and brings same into disrepute, ridicule, public scandal and contempt in the eyes of the ordinary Ghanaian,” the statement of claim pointed out.
It said as a result of the said publication, the plaintiff had been greatly injured in his character, credit and reputation as MP and vice-chairman of the NDC.