National Elections Commission (NEC) Chairman, Jerome Korkoya has filed Action of Damage for Libel against former Commissioner of the erstwhile Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC), Mr. John Stewart, and other media entities worth US$200, 000.00 for general damages and US$75,000.00 for punitive damages.
The NEC boss action is based on Stewart’s article published in the Analyst and The New Democrat Newspapers Wednesday July 6, 2016 caption “Assessing Presidential Candidate Joseph Nyumah Boakai’s Chances in 2017”.
Chairman Korkoya, in his complaint told the court that the damages based upon a calculated act of character assassination committed by John H. T. Stewart, the Analyst newspaper, and the New Democrat newspaper against him, ‘a decent man who worked his way from the position of janitor at the Liberia Refinery Petroleum company (LPRC) and has enjoyed a good reputation must not go unpunished’.
According to count-4 of Korkoya’s complaint, the libel is one of the classes of injuries listed under defamation and same will lie when a defendant’s written words are false and injure the reputation, trade, or profession of the plaintiff.
Responding to the action of damage for libel filed against him including the New Democrat Newspaper and the Analyst Newspaper, Stewart pray the court to dismiss the complaint, saying Korkoya is a public official, a position that is subject of greater public scrutiny.
Stewart pointed out that his request for a dismissal of the complaint is supported by the United States Supreme Court’s opinion in the case; Rosenbloom vs Metromedia (1971) in an opinion delivered by Mr. Justice Brennan in which the court made a clear distinction between public figures and private persons in terms of the standard for dismissing libel suits filed by public figures.
Furthermore, the former commissioner in his second count of defense said, “the entire complaint should be dismissed because the law on defamation does not protect a public figure or public official and is open to public scrutiny at all times, hence; assuming without admitting that the statement complained of are false, mere fact of falsehood is not a sufficient ground for plaintiff to file an action claiming damages for defamation, unless he shows that the defendant acted with actual malice”.
Count-12 of Stewart’s defense stated that, “ further as to count two of the complaint, Co-defendant Stewart says that same is a mere citation of the opinion of the Supreme Court and therefore, does not deserve any more traversal than what has been stated in Count 10&11 of the answer.”
He cited a case “Wooding & Company Vs Gibson, 2LLR 409,412 (1922) Bakeh Vs Greene, 14LLR 204, 211,(1960) ,Boveri &AG Vs Morris, 26 LLR (1978); Meridian Biao Bank Vs Maha Industries et all (Supreme Court (decided January 4, 2013) as his legal reliance.
The case is expected to resume next week at the Civil Law Court in Monrovia upon notice of assignment. Edited By Fredrick P. W. Gaye