A maritime journalist, Mr Bolaji Akinola who claimed to be the organiser of the recent Maritime Industry Reception Party held in honour of the newly appointed Director General of Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA) Dr Bashir Yusuf Jamoh has threatened to sue the Publisher of Platform Reporters, Mr Sylvanus Obasi for publishing a story about the occasion which he (Bolaji) claimed to have defamed him.
According to the Publisher of Platform Reporters, Mr Sylvanus Obasi, his office received a letter on Monday afternoon from Mr Bolaji through his lawyer demanding that Platform Reporters should pull down the said publication from its website within 24 hours and equally retract the story and offer unequivocal apology to Mr Bolaji Akinola within 7 days or face legal action in a law court.
The letter entitled, “DEFAMATORY PUBLICATION AGAINST MR BOLAJI AKINOLA”, which was signed by A. O Akanji (Mrs) for Pottershed Chambers stated in part: “Our client has furnished us with your online publication of 19th March 2020, captioned “Jamoh’s ‘Deception Party’: A Frivolous Bad Beginning”… .
“…The true and ordinary meaning of your publication depicts our client as deceitful, corrupt, insincere, a schemer and sycophant who organised a Reception Party, surreptitiously to incur favours from Dr Jamoh…”.
…This falsity in your publication has made our Client, a respected Maritime expert, odious to his colleagues and contemporaries in the maritime industry. This has caused our Client a great distress, humiliation, emotional trauma and embarrassment within the maritime industry”.
“In view of this, we demand that a retraction of the damaging publication and an unequivocal apology be made in writing to our Client and on copied to all Platforms where the libelous publication were shared (within 7 days from the receipt of this letter).
” In addition, we demand that the said publication be removed from your website within 24 hours from the receipt of this letter. Note that the retraction of the publication MUST be given the same place of prominence as the initial damaging publication”, the letter stated, adding that failure to do as demanded within the stipulated time would lead to “legal proceedings against you in the competent Court of Law… Without any further communications from this Chambers”.
Speaking on the development, the Publisher of Platform Reporters, Mr Sylvanus Obasi told newsmen that he had forwarded the said publication and Bolaji letter to Platform Reporters lawyers who have been instructed to understudy the two documents and prepare to meet Mr Bolaji’s lawyers in court if they choose to action the case.
Obasi maintained that Platform Reporters would not retract the story nor apologise to anyone because the publication did not in any way mention Mr Bolaji Akinola nor his company, Ships and Ports Communications as the organisers.
Adding that the organisers also shoot themselves in the leg on any defamatory claims when it released an online graphic poster of the Reception Party without showing any personal or corporate identities of those behind the Reception as the Host, thereby choosing to be faceless.
“You can’t hide under the veil of anonymity to perform an act, and when the press addresses you anonymously, you now jump into the open and claim defamation. It doesn’t work that way. There are 5 conditions a statement must meet before it can be actionable as defamation”.
“Besides, as a critical maritime stakeholder and journalist by profession, I have a ‘qualified privilege’ by law to ‘express my personal opinion’ and make ‘fair comments’ for public interest on events and happenings in the maritime sector, that was what I simply did in that publication, and I have no grudge against anyone neither do I owe anyone any apologies”, Obasi posited.