March 9, 2013 (Daily Graphic, page 14)
The Editor of the Ghanaian Lens, Mr Kobby Fiagbe, has been slapped with a GH¢68,000 fine for defaming former Defence Minister, Dr Kwame Addo Kufuor.
The Fast Track High Court, presided over by Justice Ofori Atta, also ordered Mr Fiagbe to retract, on three consecutive occasions, some offensive and defamatory statements he made against the former minister on Adom FM.
The facts of the case are that on November 25, 2011, Mr Fiagbe while engaging in a banter with the New Patriotic Party Member of Parliament for Assin North, Kennedy Agyapong, on Adom FM, expressed surprise that Mr Agyapong did not know that the NPP government demanded and received 20 per cent of all contracts as kick back.
“How come news reports came out that Addo Kufuor used to be called 20 per cent?” he asked.
Lawyers of Mr Addo Kufuor wrote to Mr Fiagbe and Adom FM to retract the offending statements and apologise. Adom FM did but Mr Kobby Fiagbe called the bluff of the former minister and his lawyers.
Determined to clear his name, Mr Addo Kufuor caused his lawyers, Kulendi@ Law, to sue the Ghanaian Lens editor. He entered an appearance through his lawyer, Kakra Essamuah, but never turned up in court to defend his comments.
Justice Ofori Atta, therefore, awarded GH¢60,000 in general damages, and GH¢8,000 as costs against Mr Fiagbe, who is also a member of the government’s communications team.
A member of Mr Addo Kufuor’s legal team, Mr Denis Adjei Dwomoh, told Myjoyonline.com that Mr Fiagbe had in 2007 published similar reports about his client.
In that report, the Ghanaian Lens newspaper claimed that as a Defence Minister, Mr Addo Kufuor transferred a UN account from Forces Pay to his office, imputing wrongdoing to the minister.
That report, according to Mr Dwomoh, was a complete fabrication designed to tarnish the image of the medical-doctor-turned-politician.
He said the court, in its Friday ruling, also restrained Mr Fiagbe from making any similar comments against the plaintiff.
Lawyer for the respondent, Mr Essamuah said he was not in court when the judgment was given.
He said he and his client made failed attempts to settle the matter out of court.
Mr Essamuah could not readily tell if he would appeal the decision, insisting that he would take appropriate instructions from his client.