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Do Whatever It Takes to Pass RTI Bill

- GJA President at RTI Stakeholder Forum

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The President of the Ghana Journalists Association, Affail Monney has made a passionate call to Ghana’s parliament and all political stakeholders to do everything possible to ensure that the Right To Information Bill is passed into law, asking them to demonstrate the political will in passing the RTI Bill, saying “stop the abortion of RTI Bill and ensure its birth from the incubator that has held the RTI Bill for far too long.

He indicated that access to information is important to the ability of the media to report accurately, therefore “proactive disclosure of information should be taken more seriously”.

He said that Ghana is awaiting to reap the benefits of the much awaited RTI Bill, and that all the amendments and memoranda would come to naught if Parliament lacks the political will to pass the Bill into law, blaming the delay in passing the Bill into law on the lack of political will.

Speaking during a stakeholder forum on the RTI Bill at Parliament on May 5th, 2018, the president of the body of journalists indicated that the present Parliament “has a duty imposed by destiny to ensure that the RTI Bill is passed”.

He further expressed worry about the fee paying regime in the Bill, adding that “no one should pay a pesewa for information”. He added that “it must be possible for anyone who needs information to access the information for the purpose needed for”.

The 1st Deputy Speaker of Parliament, Hon. Alban Bagbin on his part indicated that the new Bill, which was re-introduced in 2016, has issues which must be checked and corrected. He indicated that, they have asked the Attorney General and Minister of Justice to combine all the amendments made so far and put finality to the Bill for consideration of Parliament, hence the delay in passing the Bill.

Majority Leader and Minister for Parliamentary Affairs, Hon Osei Kyei Mensah Bonsu on his part indicated that in considering the Bill, a clear distinction must be drawn between what information can be accessed freely and what information could be classified, especially information on National Security. He also pointed out that information subject to charges must be properly categorized as well as appeal mechanisms available in case of the inability of a person to access information sought and also the timeliness of the information sought. He indicated that these are some of the issues that should be worked out by the members of the joint committee and other stakeholders.

Mina Mensah from the Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative Africa, said they are of the view that a lot more work need to be done on the Bill. She indicated that in trying to analyze the Bill, her outfit compared it to other standard laws such as the AU law that was put together with member states in collaboration with other stakeholders as a module for countries to use to formulate their legislations which states that “when a law is in conflict with the access to information law, the access to information law supersedes that law, indicating that the consideration of the RTI Bill should override the national privacy policy. She added that unfortunately, Ghana does not have that clause in our laws, unlike like that of Liberia and Nigeria.

She added that access to information in governance is the right way of leading the people, adding that “if it’s about rights of people, then we should do everything possible to protect them”, adding that it should not be at the detriment of the Right To Information Bill.

She further complained about the introductory statement to the Bill, which starts with exemptions (as in things that one cannot do under the Bill), adding that when access to information is granted, there should be no exemptions. He said “if you are giving me something and you start with what I cannot do, it gives a certain impression”.

Media stakeholders present made passionate appeal to authorities to ensure the speedy passage of the Bill.

By: Frederick E. Aggrey

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