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General News of Wednesday, 3 May 2017

Source: Myjoyonline.com

World Press Freedom Day arrives as Right to Information Bill enters 9-year talk-shop

Ghana will mark World Press Freedom Day Wednesday by raising questions about the political will to pass into law, a bill that is expected to deepen access to information.

The RTI Bill is expected to operationalise Article 21(1)(f) of the 1992 Constitution states, “All persons shall have the right to information, subject to such qualifications and laws, as are necessary for a democratic society”.

The bill was drafted in 1999 and reviewed in 2003, 2005 and 2007 but was not presented to Parliament until 2010.

Since the bill was introduced to Parliament on February 5, 2010, Parliament has talked, debated and vowed, referred it, moved it - anything except pass the aging bill.

The fifth parliament, sixth parliament, seventh parliament have come and come and now on the desk of the eighth parliament sits a bill that is believed to help fight corruption and convenient explanations from public officers.

Stakeholders were left shocked as they beheld the spectacle of partisan politics gut a last minute chance of the last parliament passing the law.

Then the Minority, the NPP in parliament threatened to walk out protesting any last-minute passage of the law by an existing NDC government humbled at the polls.

The NPP read mischief in NDC's position that it was 'better late than never'. If passed, the NPP government will be the law's first guinea pig as the NDC in opposition could seek to exploit it in exacting information from government in ways that could serve a political purpose.

So Ghanaians watched the last parliament consume its dying days in political gridlock that angered pro-RTI groups.

"I am surprised. extremely surprised. I don't know what the agenda of the NPP is...I don't understand", Regional Coordinator of the Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative, Mina Mensah told Joy FM.

While Mina Mensah struggled to find words to capture her disappointment, an advocate for its passage, Samson Lardy Ayenini was not short of vocabulary. He called the feet dragging "absurd, shameless" and "pathetic".

Four months since that spectacle, Ghana has a new parliament, a new government and the RTI coalition is set to renew its call for parliament to finish a 'homework' it began in 2010.

A member of the RTI coalition, the Ghana Journalists Association together with other stakeholders are holding a public lecture under the theme ‘’Ghana still in search of Right to information bill and broadcasting law; is parliament in a dilemma?’’

"To put it mildly, there has not been any show...political will has been so conspicuously absent in passing this bill into law" president of the GJA, Dr. Affail Monney replied his Association own theme hours before the event begins.

After more than 1,000 amendments have been made to the bill, the RTI coalition now believe, it is the turn of political class to amend the political will - and pass the bill into law.