The Court of Appeal yesterday granted an application for stay of execution filed by Western Publication, publishers of the DAILY GUIDE newspaper, against the National Democratic Congress (NDC) General Secretary, Johnson Asiedu-Nketia aka General Mosquito.
The three-member panel chaired by Justice S.E. Kanyoke held that the submission by the appellants was valid and there was the need to grant the stay pending the final determination of the substantive appeal by the Appeals Court.
It would be recalled that in February, this year, an Accra Fast-Track High Court presided over by Justice N.M.C. Abodakpi, awarded damages against the defendants/appellants in a libel case filed by the NDC General Secretary.
General Mosquito jointly and severally initiated the action against the paper’s Editor, Fortune Alimi, Senior Reporter, Charles Takyi-Boadu and another reporter in Kumasi, Morgan Owusu, in what has been termed ‘Kwasea bi nti’ judgement – a term propounded by Mr. Asiedu-Nketia himself.
As a result, the court gave judgment to Asiedu-Nketia and awarded GH¢250,000 damages against the defendants and another GH¢15,000 as costs over the newspaper’s publication of March 2, 2011 headlined: “Revealed! Asiedu Nketia’s plush mansions.”
DAILY GUIDE applied for stay of execution while appealing to the appellate court against Justice Abodakpi’s judgment. Justice Abodapki also refused the application of a stay of his judgment which has been appealed against by DAILY GUIDE.
Consequently, Western Publications repeated the application at the Appeals Court and the three-member panel granted it.
Moving the application, Eric Osei-Mensah, counsel for DAILY GUIDE, said the appeal had a very likely chance of success, as he referred the court to several additional grounds of appeal.
Lawyer Mensah also insisted that if the appellate court refused the application, it would impose irreparable hardship on the company with over 200 of its staff losing their source of livelihood.
On the grounds of appeal, the defendants/appellants said they would be relying on the fact that “the trial judge’s conclusion that the publications were defamatory of the Respondent because they were not true, is erroneous and without any legal basis.”
The defendants insist that “the trial Judge erred and misdirected himself in concluding that defamation essentially is to make false statement or suggestion of fact(s), to the prejudice of another person’s reputation.”
He also argued that the trial judge erred in law by failing to apply the test required in determining defamation, indicating that instead of setting out to determine the veracity of the publication, he ought to have determined whether the publication per se had lowered the respondent in the estimation of right-thinking members of society in general, exposed him to public ridicule, hatred and contempt.
Mr. Osei-Mensah contended that “the trial judge’s finding that the respondent has established the innuendos he has pleaded in his statement of claim is erroneous, without legal basis and unsupported by the evidence.”
He said the trial judge was also wrong in concluding that the publications the respondent complained about were actuated by malice.
Mr. Osei-Mensah averred that the trial judge was wrong in concluding that the cartoon carried by one of the publications represented the respondent and defamatory of him, and added that the damages awarded against the appellants were speculative and manifestly excessive and unsupportable by the evidence on record.
Opposing the application, Samuel Cudjoe, counsel for Asiedu-Nketia, argued that his client had enough money to pay back should the appeal be successful, which he contended was unlikely to be so.
He stated that Messrs Alimi, Takyi-Boadu and Owusu had come out to indicate that the company had no money to pay the damages slapped on it, and accordingly prayed the court to refuse the application.
“It is not as if they [DAILY GUIDE] does not have money to pay; the court should not deny the plaintiff the fruit of the damage of his reputation…these are not men of straw,” he claimed.
Mr. Cudjoe argued that DAILY GUIDE had refused to apologise as ordered by the trial court.
Mr. Osei Mensah, however, asked for a cost to be awarded against Mr. Asiedu-Nketia, which the court refused.