Full Reasoning of Eric Baah(J.A) in dismissing Anas GHC25 M Defamation suit against Kennedy Agyepong
In the court’s wisdom, the plaintiff surmounted the first test by proving that the words complained of were uttered by the defendant and that they were capable of defamatory meanings
The High Court(General Jurisdiction) presided over by Justice Eric Baah(J.A) on March 15, 2023, dismissed a GHC25 million defamation suit brought by Ace investigative journalist, Anas Aremeyaw Anas against the Member of Parliament for Assin Central, Kennedy Agyepong describing same as ‘meritless.”
The plaintiff, Anas filed the suit in June 2018 on the claims of the tortious offense of libel, allegedly committed against him by the defendant, by reason of which he claimed his name, reputation, and image had been critically damaged.
The defendant on his part alleged in his statement of defense that during his anti-corruption campaign, he came across information indicating that the modus operandi of the plaintiff was the extraction of benefits through corrupt activities by blackmailing suspected corrupt individuals, making money from them, and thereafter shielding them from criminal prosecution.
In its judgment, the court dismissed the plaintiff’s case describing the same as without merit.
On the averment of the plaintiff relative to the defendant’s failure to particularize the defense of fair comment and justification, based truth and facts, in violation of Order 57 r 3 (2), C.I. 47., the court found that it is unfounded.
In the court’s wisdom, the plaintiff surmounted the first test by proving that the words complained of were uttered by the defendant and that they were capable of defamatory meanings and the same was in reference to the plaintiff.
The contention of the plaintiff’s counsel challenging the accuracy of the translation and transcription of the alleged defamatory tapes was also shot down by the court as ‘bereft of merit’ as exhibit KOA1 was treated as an authentic and credible piece of evidence.
Moreover, the court established that the plaintiff is estopped from denying the confession statements which were relied upon by the defendant, to make his bombastic statements because his views on exhibit KOA1, regarding the receipt and sharing of bribes, amounted to a voluntary confession.
Also relative to the allegation of the defendant that the plaintiff excluded some accused persons in his previous investigative piece after accepting a bribe from them, the court affirmed per the evidence that one Baba Tunde was excluded from criminal charges through the machinations of the plaintiff, after receiving a bribe of $100,000.00 from him and on the grounds of their family relationship.
The court thus made a finding of fact per the above and the case of one Hafiz that the plaintiff is a blackmailer, an extortionist, corrupt, and a criminal.
It was thus established that the plaintiff blackmails people he desires to destroy, probably his enemies, the enemies of his friends or partners, or persons loaded with cash, whether legitimate or illegitimate, as the suspects in the gold scam case, by catching them on tape. The tape is then shown to them. The tape on those who pay up is shelved, but those who refuse or are not able to pay are held to the full glare of the public for reputational damage describing the same as legally and morally wrong and evil.
Based on this the court held that the defendant was justified in calling the plaintiff evil, criminal, corrupt, blackmailer, and extortionist.
Since the contents of exhibit KAO1 has been established to be true and factual, all comments made by the defendant based in relation to it is both justified and fair.
Interestingly, the court per the judgment lashed out at the plaintiff for attempting to target the president of the republic per his modus of conducting his investigative journalism thereby describing the same as investigative terrorism.
The President and the Prime Minister who plaintiff and his team targeted are the leaders of their nations. They embody the soul and spirit of the nations. They are obliged to lead by example, so if they engage in corrupt acts, journalists like plaintiff and indeed, any citizen is entitled to expose them. However, a pre-emptily, unjustified attacks on their credibility, unprovoked by any credible suspicion of a specific act of corruption engaged in or about to be engaged in by them, such as drawing them into a trap so as to be caught in a contrived corruption set up, as was alleged by the defendant, and backed by exhibits KOA4, was unwarranted and devious. That is not investigative journalism. It is investigative terrorism. It is exercise of indirect political power under the cloak of journalism.
Further, Justice Baah made a case for the commendation but not a condemnation of the defendant, Hon Ken Agyapong for his attack on the plaintiff.
The attacks of defendant on plaintiff on that ground deserves commendation and not condemnation. I have concluded aforehand; based on exhibits KAO1, KAO3 and KAO4, that the plaintiff engaged in the crime of bribe taking and bribe giving. A person who commits a crime is a criminal, simpliciter.
Additionally, the court held the defendant’s statement as factual and justified while describing the plaintiff as a self-confessed criminal.
The facts and the evidence established the plaintiff as a self-confessed criminal, so defendant’s statement is factual and justified. Bribe taking is a dishonest, fraudulent, cheating, extortionist, thieving, blackmailing, and a corrupt act; besides being illegal. Plaintiff who has been established by the evidence as having taken and given bribes could not have actually been defamed by those words.
On the allegation that the plaintiff murdered a former member of parliament Joseph Boakye Danquah, the court was of the view that it could not succeed in actually defaming the plaintiff.
Similarly, the allegation of land grabbing against the plaintiff was held as equally not succeeding in defaming him.
The court however found that some of the long list of words made by the defendant and tendered as ‘exhibit C’ were capable of defamatory meanings, but none was proven to have actually defamed the plaintiff.
I state in conclusion, that whereas all the statements founded on exhibits KOA1,KOA2, KOA3 and KOA4 were truthful and factual, thereby sustaining defendant’s defence of justification and fair comment, the statements in plaintiff’s exhibit C; though capable of defamatory meanings, were not proven to have actually defamed the plaintiff. I found the claims of plaintiff merit-less. It is hereby dismissed.
Read the full judgment on Dennislaw.