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Defamation Suit: Manasseh Azure grilled in court regarding his journalism training

June 27, 2024
Manasseh Azure

, an investigative journalist, received a barrage of queries in court regarding his journalism training, his legal knowledge and multiple allegations he made against International (LCI) in a series of articles titled “Darkness in a Lighthouse.” 
 
The LCI sued Azure, the Media Foundation for , its director Sulemana Braimah and Edwin Appiah for publication of the articles. 
 
The defendants contended that the suit was “intended to unlawfully fetter and frustrate them (defendants) in their fundamental and constitutional right to speech and of mass media guaranteed in Articles 21 and 162 of the Constitution.” 
 
On June 19, 2024, during Azure's cross-examination, Mr. Kweku Paintsil, the lawyer for LCI, questioned him about whether he knew that Article 164, which ensures that every Ghanaian has the right to a good reputation, balances Article 162, which protects the freedom of the press.  
 
He gave an affirmative response. 
 
Mr. Painstil confronted Manasseh with exhibits proving that Sulemana Braimah published the articles in question on his own Facebook wall in response to a defence that Sulemana Braimah, the third defendant, was not involved in the Fourth Estate's publications. 
Mr. Painstil asked Manasseh to attest that Sulemana Braimah was the publisher of the exhibits. Manasseh admitted it. 
 
When Manasseh was asked if he could recall a speech he gave at the in March 2023, where he stated that he had never been held liable by a court for his publications.  
 
In response, Manasseh said he could not recall specifics from the speech, but if he “did refer to not being found liable then it would be with reference to defamation.” 
 
He was then asked if he recalled that, concerning the article “Darkness in a Lighthouse,” he and the other defendants were found guilty of contempt of court on October 25, 2022, to which he admitted. 
 
But he (Azure) clarified “a contempt case is different from a defamation case.”  
 
Mr. Paintsil persisted after Azure's response, that the defendant was conveying the notion that, when dealing with press matters, a civil judgment is more important to him than a criminal conviction resulting from his publications. 
 
In response, Azure said, “That was not the case.” 
 
When asked if he understood the significance of disclosing information that was not before the court, Azure responded that he did in his capacity as a journalist. 
 
He was asked about whether he received training on the publication of matters before the court as a journalist.  
 
“What I remember from such training was to refrain from passing judgement or opinions about the possible outcome of a case,” he replied. 
 
Azure was pressed again about the allegations he made in his publications regarding the Plaintiff's (LCI) purported refusal to pay the Social Security benefits of six pastors who had resigned from
 
He answered that “Those were the allegations by the six pastors who resigned and same were also found in the documents they filed in court.” 
 
Azure admitted that the documents filed by those six pastors before the court were for the judge's assessment and determination only at the conclusion of the trial.  
 
He further admitted that he did not expect the trial judge to be bound by any conclusion that he (Azure) reached at the end of the trial. 
 
In spite of an report that cleared the LCI regarding the six pastors' contributions, Azure acknowledged that he nevertheless published an article headlined “Evidence – How Lighthouse Chapel incriminated itself and SSNIT Looked away.”  
 
The LCI, relying on an August 2021 SSNIT report, has indicated in court that the defendants lack any proof to substantiate the claim that the church owed some former pastors over 42 years' worth of social security contributions. 
 
The LCI stated that Azure and other parties lacked proof to back up their claims that the three church structures the publications showed—which the church possessed—were built from the personal resources of past pastors Larry Odonkor, Edward Laryea, and Seth Duncan. 
 
The court presided over by Justice Joseph Adu Owusu, adjourned the matter to July 22, 2024, for continuation of the cross-examination. 

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