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'Snoopy', a new crime wave in Ghana

Akufo Addo Cancer Saga Africawatch publication that alleged Akufo-Addo has cancer

Sat, 17 Dec 2016 Source: Quaye, Stephen A.

By Stephen A. Quaye

If it was not to defame the now president elect of the New Patriotic Party NPP Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo Addo in the recent elections then no one can tell what it was.

Everyone is asking why those “snoopy stories” were published about Nana Addo Dankwa Akuffo Addo during the campaign season the country was preparing to hit the polls?

No one knows uptil now why the editor at large for African Watch magazine hid and tossed fabricated and defamatory stories about the president elect Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo Addo.

A couple of months ago, African Watch magazine published a fabricated story that Nana Addo had cancer, such a defamatory story which was intended to run down the gentleman’s election victory bid.

Now the elections are over butt everyone is talking about the snoopy story about Akufo Addo though it could not scuttle his effort at winning the elections.

Despite the denial from his personal doctor that the gentleman was not suffering from the deadly disease, NDC hawks are still spreading the “snoopy story”.

What is shameful is the continuous silence of media analysts who are suppose to raise awareness in the media that such unprofessional journalistic practice of publishing defamatory stories must cease.

Let’s say that yes if Nana Akufo Addo was in fact receiving treatment for cancer which he was not and is not, does the media law permit the editor at large Steve Malorey and his magazine to publish a snoopy story?

What is defamation?

Any statement or act that attacks the good reputation of a person can be said to be defamatory say the Oxford Dictionary and Thesaurus of Current English.

But the 23RD Edition of McNae’s Essential Law for Journalists explains that defamatory statements are those published or spoken which affects the reputation of a person, company or organization.

In other words, a statement about a person is defamatory if it seriously affects his/her reputation by:

*exposing him/her to hatred, ridiculed or contempt or causing him/her to be shunned or avoided.

*lowering him/her in the estimation of right-thinking members of society generally; or

*disparaging the person in his/her business, trade, office of profession.

A case study 1

In 1986 Lord Gowrie, a former cabinet minister, and received ‘substantial’ damages over a newspaper article which created the innuendo that he took drugs. He had recently resigned as minister for the arts and the daily star newspaper then asked:’ what expensive habits can he not support on an income 0f 33,000 POUNDS?

I’m sure Gowrie himself would snort at suggestions that he was born with a silver spoon around his neck.’ His counsel said the reference to expensive habits, the use of the word ‘snort’ and the reference to a silver spoon around his neck’ all bore the plain implication that all those familiar with the relevant terminology that Lord Gowrie took illegal drugs, particularly cocaine, and resigned because his salary was not enough to finance the habit.

Case study 2

Singer-song writer Robbie Williams won ‘substantial’ damages from publisher Northern and Shell in 2005 after the magazine Star and Hot Star ran stories alleging that he had omitted from forth coming authorized biography details of an alleged sexual encounter with a man in the lavatories of a club in Manchester and that, by disclosing details of his female conquests but not mentioning this episode, he was concealing his true sexuality.

But the allegations were completely false-the publisher apologized, and paid damages and the singer’s costs [Robert Peter Williams v Northern and Shell Plc, statement in High Court, December 6, 2005

What is a snoopy story?

A snoopy story can simply be defined as profiting from stolen information about a person’s health from a health facility for publication either to defame him or use as a sales lead that violates the privacy of the person.

In other words, buying medical information about a person from a health facility to use for political propaganda as the African Watch magazine did was “a massive criminal scheme that violated the privacy of Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo Addo.

The goal as it has been explained earlier on was to expose him to hatred, ridicule or contempt or causing him to be shunned or avoided in the estimation of right thinking and eligible Ghanaian voters who voted for him against out going president Mahama in the just ended elections.

Case study 1

In August 2016, an Ontario Court Judge convicted and fined two former investment dealers who bought stolen medical information to use as sales leads. A former branch manager at Knowledge First Financial Inc., was fined 45,000 dollars, placed on probation for two years and ordered to serve 300 hours of community service for her role in the snooping plot. She was also banned from practicing in the financial services industry for at least two years the court ruled.

Her co-accused, who was an assistant manager with CST Consultants Inc., was given the same sentence with lower fine -3,000 dollars and 150 hours community service due to his age and financial standing, the judge found.

Case study 2

Five people were convicted by an Ontario Court of their involvement in snooping for-profit scheme, which affected at least 14,000 maternity patients at Rouge Valley Health System hospitals. The huge privacy breach was announced by the health provider in 2014, after an internal investigation prompted two employees to admit they had snooped into patients medical records.

In June, two others involved in the scheme –Esther Cruz and Nellie Acar- were sentenced to three months’ house arrest, two years probation and 340 hours of community service.

The famous 2016 general elections are over with some of the statements and publications made during the campaign season found to be untrue.

It is sad to observe that the massive criminal scheme that was used against the president elect is still working therefore the need to raise awareness and crack the whip there after.

Publishing a snoopy story is criminal and the media law does not permit that it should be made clear.

AUTHOR REPORTED FOR THE GHANAIAN CHRONICLE. NOW AN NCTJ MEDIA LAW STUDENT IN CANADA.

Writer's e-mail: teemagi2003@yahoo.com

Columnist: Quaye, Stephen A.