Rice Importer Sues Newspaper

By M.Welemongai Ciapha, II

The Chief Executive Officer of United Commodities Incorporate (UCI), Anwar Ezzeddine has instituted an action of damage for wrong against the management of the Daily Observer newspaper, praying the court to award him with the sum of US$5,000,000.

Counsel for the plaintiff, who filed the action before the Sixth Judicial Civil Law Court for Montserrrado County on September 15, 2015, said his client is one of the major importers and distributors of rice on the Liberian market.

The plaintiff, represented by Cllr. Cooper W. Kruah most respectfully requested the court to take judicial notice of the UCI’s Article of Incorporation, which is attached to the complaint.

The plaintiff averred that the defendant named herein collectively, caused and masterminded the publication of a malicious, reckless and damaging story in the September 14, 2014 edition of the Daily Observer newspaper under the caption: “Rice Importer Under US$22M Probe.”

The prosecuting lawyer told the court as a consequent of the publication; the Board of Directors met in an emergency session and passed a resolution authorizing Ezzeddine to engage the services of a law firm to institute the appropriate legal actions against said newspaper as well as all those who acted in concert in a court of jurisdiction to answer to the plaintiff damages.

Counsel for the plaintiff noted that Daily Observer, who is the first defendant, is a corporate entity that publishes stories for public consumption and generate thousands of dollars from the sale of the newspapers published.

In count four of the complaint, counsel for the plaintiff contends that the 2nd defendant, William Q. Harmon is an employer of the first defendant, who benefited from the sale of newspaper that carried the damaging story; is subject of these proceedings about his client.

The lawyer said under the doctrine of superior respondeat, the first defendant, Mr. Kenneth Y. Best, Publisher of the Daily Observer may answer for the act of his employee or reporter Harmon.

Cllr. Kruah said while it is true that newspapers are licensed to publish news stories, the law requires that story written by any newspaper; or a reporter must be balanced.

He argued that a reporter or publisher must gather information from all the parties about whom a story is written to ensure that the story is based upon facts gatheredfrom the parties who may be mentioned in such story.

In the instant case, Cllr. Kruah alleged that neither reporter Harmon or Mr. Best sought any clarification from Ezzeddine before publishing the story.

In resistance to the complaint, Cllr. Emmanuel B. James, who is representing the legal interest of the Daily Observer, prays the court to deny plaintiff’s request for special damages in the amount of US$60,000 plus general damages in the sum of US$5,000,000.

Cllr. James told the court that the averments in the complaint contained therein presents traversable issue of law or factto be traversed.

The defense lawyer said the plaintiff’s claim of being one of the major importers and distributors of rice on the Liberia market, is not a public historical factfor the court to take judicial notice of on grounds that not everyone in Liberia knows him to be one of the major rice importers.

Counsel for the defendant denied, refuted and rejected allegation that they [defendants] collectively caused and masterminded the publication of a malicious, reckless and damaging story in the newspaper on September 14, 2015, under the captioned: “Rice Importer under US$22M Probe.”

On the contrary, defense submitted that in keeping with the ethics of the journalism profession, journalists diligently and painstakingly made contacts through calls, emails with the relevant parties to the story includingthe plaintiff in an effort to hear all sides as required of responsible journalists.

The defense said the plaintiffoutrightlyignored and rejected the defendants request to ascertainhis side of the story.