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Opinions of Wednesday, 16 May 2012

Columnist: Balami, Edward

Right to information: A step in the right direction

Student-journalists at the Ghana Institute of Journalism have had the opportunity to be taken through series of benefits which the paramount include; easy access to information, which would be enjoyed when the Right to Information bill which has suffered passage comes into force.

Personnel from the Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative (CHRI), Africa office in Accra, which is spearheading and lobbying for the passage of the bill, took time to interact with the members of the Ghana Journalists Association Chapter of the Ghana Institute of Journalism during one of their regular Thursday meetings at the school.

The bill which was drafted ten years ago isdesigned in accordance with Article (1) (f) of the 1992 Constitution of Ghana gives the Ghanaian public the right to access official information. The information which consist of any data or facts, be it a printed document, a computer record, an audio recording, or any other format will be much more helpfulif enacted.

It will give Ghanaians the right and power to request for information, which is held by a government agency. It will also mean that Government agencies have to disclose such information to the public even in the absence of any formal requests from the public.This, however,some information is said to be subjected to exemptions as set out in the Bill.

Students that gathered to listen to Mr. Jonathan Osei-Owusu, ( a member from the coalition on the right to information bill), during his presentation were greatly impacted with the ins and outs of the right to information bill which most of them have hitherto not had privy to.

Recently in the Volta Region, the Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative’s (CHRI) education given to some selected persons living with disability yielded positive results. The beneficiaries expressed much joy since they could access information that was prior out of range.

From the above discussions, it is crystal clear that the Ghanaian public is in dire need of the bill.Journalists, who are also referred to as the fourth estate of the realm, the public relations officer down to the least on the scale of information search all need to get access to information devoid of hindrances.

However, as we crave for the right to information bill to be passed, we should not forget to remind our politicians to amend some sections of the bill.It is ironic that while Clauses 2 and 3 of the bill provide for proactive disclosure of information, the information that should be proactively disclosed is rather limited.Some information as earlier submitted is to be exempted from getting access to. This means our access to some information will be limited as earlier stated.

If Ghanaiansacross the breath and width of the country wish to get access to information as their right demands, then all hands must be on board to call for the right amendment and rapid implementation of the right to information bill.

By: Edward Balami Thank you.