By: G Bennie Bravo Johnson
The Civil Law Court has issued a writ of summons against the management of Spoon TV, FM Communication Network, and owner Stanton Witherspoon over a reported US$2,500 lawsuit filed by the former Deputy Director General for Information Coordination at the Liberia Institute of Statistics and Geo-Information Services, Wilmot Smith.
Judge Kennedy Peabody yesterday commanded the defendants to appear before the court to answer the complainant Smith mention in an Action of Damage for Libel and slander.
“You are at this moment further commanded to notify the said defendants to file a formal appearance and answer in my office on or before January 16, 2023; meanwhile, you will make your official returns endorsed on the back of the writ of summons as to the manner of its service.”
Plaintiff Wilmot Smith on Friday, January 6, 2023, prayed the court to adjudge the defendants liable for damages in the amount not less than US$2,500,000.00 (for General Damages to be decided by the trial jury, and US$500,000.00 in Punitive Damages and US$500,000.00 for successful attorney fees.
The plaintiff’s legal team, headed by Cllr. Arthur Johnson, said that his client is a law-abiding and eminent citizen who has served in several positions of high trust and continues to serve in the Republic of Liberia based on the reputation he has built for himself.
Cllr. Johnson said that the first defendant is the employer of the second defendant. The first defendant is engaged in the administration, management, and operation of new media and talk shows operated on several radio stations in Liberia and other social media networks operations in Liberia and the United States of America that are listened to by thousands of people in and out of Liberia and are named and styled as the Spoon TV Talk Show and Network Communication. Additionally, the 2nd Defendant is the owner, Chief Executive Officer (CEO), and Managing Director of the 1st Defendant.
“The 2nd Defendant is the Owner/Chief Executive Officer(CEO)/Managing Director of the 1st Defendant, Spoon TV, and while in his official capacity as President/CEO of the 1ST Defendant, he willfully, intentionally, and purposely engaged in a slanderous and libelous campaign to harm and defame, embarrass, and humiliate the Plaintiff on Spoon TV social media, news networks, and platforms, including radio stations for more than three(3) months by branding the Plaintiff as a criminal and person who stole Census funds intended to pay enumerators; that is to say that the Plaintiff stole and personally converted Liberian population and housing census money that was designed for pay enumerators. “”This allegation of the Defendants is untrue and defamatory and has injured the Plaintiff unjustifiably.”
He revealed that between June 2022 and November 30, 2022, on the Spoon Talk Show, the named 2nd Defendant engaged in a systematic campaign to defame Plaintiff by alleging that Plaintiff stole and personally converted Liberian National Population and Housing Census money.
In fact, according to the 2nd Defendant, on the 1st Defendant’s platform, Spoon TV and other networks, which were shared on many different social media platforms, were viewed and listened to by thousands of people nationally and internationally for the sole purpose of defaming and damaging the Plaintiff, Mr. Wilmot Smith. The 2nd Defendant repeatedly labeled and stigmatized Plaintiff as a criminal during the talk shows, thereby placing Plaintiff’s life in shame and embarrassment and in danger from enumerators and even from the public as a whole.
“Plaintiff wrote the 1st and 2nd Defendants about the wrongful conduct of the 2nd Defendant on November 30, 2022, because the information made by the 2nd Defendant was untrue and deceptive and that the sole purpose of the Defendants’ actions was to tarnish the Plaintiff’s character for reasons best known to the Defendants.”
The Defendants were asked to retract their statements against Plaintiff because such reports tend to defame, embarrass, and cause inconvenience to Plaintiff in our gullible society. Still, up until the filing of this complaint, the Defendants have failed to retract their slanderous and libelous statements that have been carried out in print and electronic media for the sole purpose of naming, shaming, and harming Plaintiff.
“The objective of the 2nd Defendant’s action was to defame, embarrass, and injure the reputational integrity of the plaintiff, which Defendants have achieved because, up to the time of the filing of this Complaint, the Defendants are still engaged in carrying out these slanderous statements on social media and other internet platforms against the dignified image of the Plaintiff.”
According to him, during the defendants’ libelous campaign against his client, the defendants, particularly the 2nd defendant, labeled Plaintiff as someone who had converted funds intended for the national census into personal use. To prove that the 2nd Defendant’s statements were untrue, the United Nations Population Fund and Steering Committee International Partners debunked the Defendants’ account on November 11, 2022, and later cautioned Liberians not to politicize the census; additionally, on October 24, 2022, the UNFPA called on the Liberian people to ignore the Defendants’ recording, which falsely accused Plaintiff.
“The defendants facilitated, on their platform (Spoon TV) and internet communication networks, that the plaintiff conspired with Hon. Samuel D. Tweah, Minister of Finance, to open a secret foreign account in the Republic of Ivory Coast in an Ecobank Account. This statement was also untrue and defamatory because ECOBANK debunked the defendant’s assertions against the plaintiff when it denied ever having such a secret account. The ECOBANK statement appeared on the Frontpage Newspaper Vo.16 No.215, dated Monday, November 21, 2022”.
WHEREFORE, AND IN VIEW OF THE FOREGOING FACTS AND CIRCUMSTANCES, Plaintiff humbly prays to Your Honor and this Honorable Court to hold the defendants liable for general damages in the amount of not less than Two Million Five Hundred Thousand United States Dollars (US$2,500,000.00) to be decided by the trial jury, and punitive damages in the amount of Five Hundred Thousand United States Dollars (US$500,000.00) for libel and slander, and grant to Plaintiff all other legal relief, including successful attorney fees of US$500,000.00.