Publishers of The Herald have described a suit brought against them by the Okyenhene, Osagyefuo Amoatia Ofori Panin, as a blatant harassment for doing their legally stipulated duty as journalists.
They denied in their statement of defence that they defamed the Okyenhene.
Osagyefuo Ofori Panin has filed a libel suit at the Fast Track High Court against Prime Mark Company Limited, publisher of The Herald, Mr Larry-Alans Dogbe, Editor of the paper, and two others for variously publishing alleged libellous materials which, according to him, had tarnished his hard-won reputation both locally and internationally.
The two other defendants are Nana Kwame Adjei-Boateng, a member of the Asona royal family of Kyebi, and Kofi Nyame, a reporter with the newspaper.
Osagyefuo Ofori Panin is accordingly praying the court to perpetually restrain the defendants from further publishing libellous materials against him.
The said libellous material was published on the front page of the May 5, 2014 edition of the paper.
According to the Okyenhene, it sought to create the impression that he was championing illegal mining activities, popularly known as galamsey, at Kyebi.
He wants the court to award exemplary damages in the sum of GH¢5 million against the defendants, as well as order them to bear the cost of solicitor’s fees.
The first defendant in the suit is Nana Adjei-Boateng.
A statement of defence filed on behalf of Mr Dogbey and Prime Mark Company Limited, by their lawyer Mr David Annan, argued that claims that only The Herald circulated the story was false because all radio stations in the country circulated it.
According to the statement, the story emanated from Nana Adjei-Boateng, a royal from the plaintiff’s family.
The defendants argued that “various receipts emanating from the Office of the Okyenhene and given to persons carrying out mining activities exist”.
They challenged the Okyenhene to prove how the publication had lowered his reputation in the estimation of right thinking members of the society or how the publication exposed him to public ridicule, odium and contempt.
Responding to the plaintiff’s claim that the story was accentuated by malice, the defendants argued that the claim was “hollow, untenable and speculative at best and constitutes a vain and futile attempt to justify the claim.”
No cause of action
The statement further held that the plaintiff’s writ and claim were extravagant, tenuous and misconceived because they disclosed no cause of action against the defendants, who it said were only performing their duty to inform and convey the sentiments and comments of individuals and organisations to other members of the public.
According to the defendants, they are constitutionally mandated to publish interviews and press releases.