DISSATISFIED by the decision of a Rivers State High Court sitting in Port Harcourt, Guardian Newspapers Limited (GNL) has served a notice of appeal at the Court of Appeal, Port Harcourt Division, praying for an order to allow its appeal.
The newspaper also wants the Appeal Court to set aside the judgment of the court of first instance, which found it guilty of publishing a defamatory material against one Dr. Theo Chike Osanakpo (SAN) and awarded N10 million in his favour.
In the notice of appeal, the media conglomerate, through its lawyer, Olu Fayemi from G.M. Ibru and Co., is of the opinion that the trial Justice S. C. Amadi erred in law when the judge in question held that the company failed in making a case for the entitlement of qualified privilege provided by law to protect reports by journalists covering the courts and the National Assembly and also refused to consider the spirited defence put up by the appellants that the publication complained of comes under qualified privilege, without any intent of the plea of malice of the respondent.
Besides, the newspaper contends that it was an error on the judge’s part when he held that the publication of the widely acclaimed reputable newspaper was purportedly libelous of the respondent/applicant without considering the use of ellipses in the construction of the word held to be defamatory.
He added that Justice Amadi erred in law when he held that the respondent, Dr. Osanakpo, successfully proved his case against the newspaper by misconceiving the law that the newspaper did not oppose the evidence the senior advocate gave of his reputation without calling a third party to corroborate him on how the right thinking public perceived him after the publication.
To prove this assertion, The Guardian’s lawyers said the judge, in his judgment, misconstrued the law when he held that the appellants failed to prove that the said offensive material was lifted from the Nigerian Deposit Insurance Corporation (NDIC) report to the floor of the Nigerian Senate during its plenary session without taking cognisance of the appellants’ sole witness’ oral evidence of his direct attendance of the Upper Chamber’s proceedings of July 7, 2012, where the issue in question was discussed.
It is elementary law of defamation, according to the company, that where a person complains that his reputation in a publication has been lowered before a right thinking public, he must call a third party to corroborate his evidence. But in this case, he contended that the trial court misdirected itself when it held that the respondent was right in giving opinion of his reputation without calling a third party evidence to justify his esteemed claim.
Above all, the appellant complained bitterly of the award of N10 million given to the respondent as damages even where he failed to prove special damages or pecuniary loss in his writ of summons or statement of claims backed by documentary evidence.