Lawyers of Lighthouse Chapel International (LCI) have hauled investigative Journalist and editor of the “The Fourth Estate” news portal Manasseh Azure Awuni before an Accra High Court for defamation.
The plaintiff insists that he was defamed when the News portal in its publications- “Darkness in a Lighthouse” made some disparaging remarks about the church and its founder Bishop Dag-Heward Mills.
According to the plaintiff, by reason of the publication and republication of the said words, the Plaintiff has been gravely damaged in its character and reputation, and has suffered considerable distress and embarrassment, and has also suffered special and aggravated damage.
Other defendants in the suit are: Edwin Appiah Co-Editor, Suleman Braimah and Executive Director of the Media Foundation For West Africa (MFWA) as well as MFWA as an entity.
In a statement of claim sighted by the paper, the plaintiff said in the issue of “The Fourth Estate” dated 23dApril, 2021, writing under the bold headline “Darkness in a Lighthouse Part 1; Pastors recount abuse and trauma”, the Defendants published or caused to be published defamatory words about the Plaintiff’s profession as a Christian organization.
It said publication and re-publications received a very agitated, vibrant and enthusiastic re-publication, both in Ghana and worldwide generating in the process thousands of degrading comments against the Plaintiff and its founder on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and many WhatsApp platforms in daily conversations of people.
The document stated that the Defendants knew and foresaw that the republication of their defamatory words by other social media outlets would be made and that the re-publication was the natural and probable consequence of their own publication.
The statement of claimed indicated that the Defendants launched their website within a media space of fierce competition for attention in which the more sensational a story is, the more the readership and consequent financial gain. Consequently, by publishing this story which was sensational in the extreme, the Defendants had calculated that the benefit to them of increased readership, coupled with the revenue generated therefrom, would far outweigh any award of damages against them;
“The substance of the publication was a one-sided, highly prejudicial reproduction, more or less, of selected portions of the statement of claim of six plaintiffs who had commenced separate suits against the Plaintiff, at all material times when the Plaintiff had not been served with the court processes” it noted.
The document further argued: “Notwithstanding that the Plaintiff delivered defences to each of the said six suits to the Defendants’ knowledge, the Defendants deliberately refused or failed to publish the said defences or with the same prominence as that of the plaintiffs in these suits, thereby ensuring that the reading public could only have a jaundiced and prejudicial view of the matters in court”.
The plaintiff indicated that by such posturing the Defendants had already determined the outcome of the six suits in the minds of the public such that if the trial or trials ended in the Plaintiff’s favour, the public would conclude that justice has not been served.
For this reason, the LCI wants the court to take damages, including special, aggravated and exemplary damages for libel contained on websites published by the Defendants herein and re-published by many local and international media;
The plaintiff also seeks an injunction restraining the Defendants and each of them, whether by themselves, their servants, or agents or otherwise, from further publishing or causing to be published the said or similar words defamatory of the Plaintiff.
The man of God also want an order directed to the Defendants to publish with equivalent prominence to the same medium a suitable apology in terms to be agreed by the parties or approved by the Plaintiff and for the same to be archived on Defendants’ website so as to remain searchable to users of the said website and Facebook account as well as an order directed at the Defendants to use the same medium and with the same prominence to retract the said defamatory words and render an unqualified apology to the Plaintiff.
That aside, the plaintiff also seek an order directed to the Defendants to ensure the removal of the defamatory articles as well as their re-publication on other media sites from the internet; vi. Costs involved in the prosecution of this suit.