Dear Mirror Lawyer, I am a trader by profession and the leader of the Market Women and Traders Union known as WGTU.
I am very helpful and respected by a lot of the women and have the vision to contribute and play a guidance role for the younger women in my business and the society.
I also provide counselling, advice and support to a lot of the young traders in my market. A few months ago, rumours started going round about me. I was told by some of my friends that some of the traders went to the shop of one Paa Buah and heard him in a chat with someone on the phone gossiping about me that I use black magic to attract my customers and to make money.
These traders later shared what they heard with their friends and soon, the rumour spread all over the market. Now the women who used to look up to me give me funny looks. I appear to be losing my standing as President of the Trading Union.
This will be devastating to my business as the role facilitates my work and I enjoy several other benefits. Paa Buah has been vying for this role and I know he stands to gain a lot should I be relieved of my position.
To vindicate myself, I want to bring a legal action against Paa Buah because he has underestimated the value of my reputation and my business, as well as my readiness to fight for the truth. What can I do to clear my name?
Maa Akos, Kyebi,
Dear Maa Akos, Your circumstances fall under the tort of defamation. Defamation is for the protection of the reputation of individuals from false imputations.
It is governed by customary law, common law and the 1992 Constitution. Defamation consists of Libel and Slander: Libel being the publication of defamatory statements in a permanent medium or forms such as writings, signs and pictures.
Slander is simply spoken defamatory utterances and imputations. From the facts you have provided ,yours may be classified under slander. To succeed in an action based on slander, you must establish to the satisfaction of the court that you have suffered actual loss or injury because of the words spoken by the other person. Further, for the claim to be successful, you must prove that:
a. The communication made was capable of a defamatory meaning lowering your reputation and causing you to be shunned by others and or creating damage to your business, office or trade.
b. The utterances should be made with reference to you, the Plaintiff
c. The statement should have been published; this will include any utterances made to a third party in an action for slander.
From the facts provided by you, Paa Buah did not make any verbal statements to any third party about you. He was on the phone gossiping about you with a friend.
It was the traders who eavesdropped on his conversation and then went to town with it spreading the rumour to other people. In law, Paa Buah cannot be held liable for making any slanderous statement about you even if what he told the friend on the phone was untrue and defamatory.
It was the traders who spread the alleged false statements to the other market women and should have been held responsible for the rumours and not Paa Buah.