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Newspaper wins seven year old defamation case

(MFWA/IFEX) - On February 24, 2010 Ghana's Supreme Court awarded 2,000 GH Cedis (approx. US$1,400) in favour of privately-owned, Accra-based "The Daily Dispatch" newspaper, its editor, reporter and publisher, Ben Ephson, Akwasi Mensah and Allied News Limited respectively, as legal costs, in a 2003 defamation case brought against them.

The five-member panel unanimously dismissed the defamation charges brought by a traditional chief, Daasebere Nana Osei Bonsu, paramount chief of Mampong Traditional Area in the Ashanti Region of Ghana.

Nana Bonsu brought the legal action following an April 9, 2003 petition that "The Daily Dispatch" reproduced in an article. The newspaper's article, headlined: "Mamponghene (Paramount chief of Mampong) in GH Cedis 26,400 (approx. US$18,600) fraud", reported that aggrieved persons purporting to be acting on behalf of one Rosina Mensah, a US based Ghanaian, had accused the chief of collecting US$30,000 with the promise of making Mensah the queen mother of the area.

This is the second time that a court has ruled in favour of "The Daily Dispatch" in respect of this case. An Accra High Court presided over by Justice Victor Ofoe on October 18, 2004 dismissed the plaintiff's case against the newspaper. However, on July 13, 2006, a Court of Appeal overturned the earlier ruling by the high court. The defendants, represented by Kweku Y. Painstil, finally appealed to the Supreme Court.

In an interview with the Media Foundation for West Africa (MFWA), Ben Ephson, the newspaper's editor, said that the court ruling was a vindication of "The Daily Dispatch"'s editorial policy of publishing only the truth.

In another development, an Accra High Court on February 26 convicted Raymond Archer, editor-in-chief of the privately-owned "The Enquirer" newspaper, of contempt of court, ordering him to pay a fine of 2,400 GH Cedis (approx. US$1,700) or face two weeks of hard labour in prison.

The conviction came despite the newspaper complying with a court order to retract and apologize for publishing a series of allegations against former foreign minister Akwasi Osei-Adjei and another person standing trial on criminal charges of causing financial loss to the state. The newspaper had alleged that the two men were buying witnesses in the case. The editor had not been able to prove his allegations to the court.

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