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Newspaper suspended, journalists and publishers fined in defamation case

(MFWA/IFEX) - "The Chronicle", an Accra-based privately-owned daily newspaper, was expected to resume publication on August 12, 2011 after its premises were sealed off by court officials after the paper was found guilty of defaming Prof. Kaku Sagary Nokoe, a former Vice Chancellor of the University of Development Studies, in a 2009 publication.

On August 9, a team of police and court officials, led by the Deputy Sheriff of an Accra High Court, stormed the offices of General Portfolio Limited, the publishers of "The Chronicle", sealed off the entrance to the offices and ordered all the staff members out of the premises.

The suspension of the newspaper was the result of a June 23 judgment by the High Court, in which the publishers, the paper's Associate Editor, Emmanuel Akli, and the northern regional correspondent, Edmund Gyebi, were fined GHC500,000 (approx. US$324,700) in damages. The court also awarded GHC10,000 (approx. US$6,500) to the plaintiff for legal costs and prohibited the newspaper from publishing further reports about Prof. Nokoe.

In articles published on July 9 and 15, 2009, "The Chronicle" accused Prof. Nokoe and Daniel Gyimah, then Chairman of the University Council, of underhanded dealings in the acquisition of a hostel facility.

The court deemed that the publications were not true: "The hostel was bought by the university through its council and not by the plaintiff alone or by the plaintiff with the collusion of the chairman of the council. The plaintiff did not make any financial gains in any way in the purchase."

The newspaper has expressed interest in appealing the court verdict.

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