An Accra Fast Truck High Court, presided over by Justice Uuter Paul Dery, yesterday slapped GHc180,000 on Daily Graphic and Daily Democrat as costs and damages for publishing libelous and scandalous story against a former Minister of Trade, Industry, Private Sector Development and President’s Special Initiatives, Joe Baidoe-Ansah, who is the New Patriotic Party (NPP) Member of Parliament for Kwesimintsim.
The story published by the Daily Graphic under the headline “Last minute agreement halts destination inspection duties” in its Monday, April 20, 2009 edition was re-published by the Daily Democrat under the headline “Joe Baidoe-Ansah Caused This Mess” in its Thursday, April 29, 2009 edition with the same content.
The story sought to portray the former minister as reckless and unpatriotic by signing a contract agreement on December 28, 2008 which was a voting day for the re-run and the story implied that his action could cause financial loss to the state.
The Graphic story, authored by Kofi Yeboah, “An initiative to enable the Customs, Excise and Preventive Service (CEPS) to rake in huge revenue for the state has been stalled by the stroke of the pen of a former Minister of Trade, Industry, Private Sector Development and President’s Special Initiative. The initiative was to make CEPS take over its core function of classification and valuation from Destination Inspection Companies (DICs) with effect from January 1, 2009, and the essence was to inject efficiency into its operations and huge revenue into the national kitty.
However, under inexplicable circumstances and at the eleventh hour of takeover, the contract of the DICs, to perform that function on behalf of CEPS was extended by one year under the signature of the Minister, Joe Baidoo-Ansah, on Sunday, December 28, 2008.”
Mr. Baidoo-Ansah after the two publications realized the damage those publications had caused to his person and his family and decided to seek redress at the court and asked the two media houses to compensate him for publishing that information about him which was completely false.
He said the story was not only fabricated but also calculated to tarnish his hard won reputation and cause him pain.
According to him, he (himself) being a professional journalist knows the important of free media and freedom of speech but he believes journalist in exercising their duties must be guided by the fact that they do so responsibly by not publishing ‘anything’ about a person or an individual to intentionally destroy his reputation.
He explained to the Daily Graphic that the story was a complete fabrication because on the said date which was a Sunday, he was in his constituency for re-run and that he never signed such contract as published by the two papers.
He said he decided to take the papers to court to clear his name.
The case travelled through three judges at the Fast Track High Court.
The former minister was represented by Godfred Yeboah Dame while Daily Graphic was represented by Cecilia Davis and Daily Democrat was represented by lawyer David Annan.
In its, ruling, the court said inasmuch as media houses had the right and freedom to publish information for public consumption, they should make sure that they did not publish stories that would defame people.
The court said if the Daily Graphic had done the slightest investigations, it would have found out that the former Minister was nowhere connected with the story and that the apology rendered two years later after the publication could do little to repair the damage caused to his reputation.
The Daily Democrat, however, did not render any apology at all.
The court, therefore, awarded the cost against them to be paid to the former minister, who is the current MP for Kwasimintsim.