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Opinions of Tuesday, 8 July 2014

Columnist: Public Agenda

Right To Info Law will enhance Ghana's democratic image

One particular piece of legislation whose passage by Parliament has unduly delayed is the Right to Information Bill. It is a bill which transcended both former President John Kufour and President Atta Mills governments, and till date it still lingers on in Parliament.

Last week, a new development came up, And that was the claim that Ghanaians do not want a Right to Information (RTI) Law, a belief which has been debunked by the RTI Coalition, Ghana. See our front-page story bannered Ghanaians don't want Right to Information law, say Speaker, Information Minister & others; but RTI Coalition disagrees.

According to the story, Ghana's Speaker of Parliament, the former Minister for Information and Media Relations, and some members of the Committee on Constitutional, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs have stated that majority of Ghanaians are not interested in having a RTI law. However, this assertion has been debunked by the RTI Coalition, Ghana, and rightfully so.

It is ironical that a law that holds so much for the country in terms of information flow and development has not been accorded the expected priority which many Ghanaians associate with it.

But as pointed out by Ms Pansy Tlakula, South Africa's Electoral Commission Chairperson, in an interview with the Ghana News Agency (GNA), Ghana's image will be enhanced as the shining star of Africa's democracy, should we pass the RTI Bill.

She said government is the custodian of information on behalf of the people, and access to information will promote good governance, transparency and accountability.

Ms Tlakula, who is also the African Union Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Expression and Access to Information, urged the Executive, Parliament and CSOs, to work hand-in-hand to ensure the smooth passage of the Bill.

She said such a law should be implemented by an independent arbiter to ensure that the citizenry's right to information is protected.

Research reveals that 13 African countries, including South Africa, Uganda, Ethiopia, Tunisia, Rwanda, Zimbabwe, Nigeria, Liberia, Niger, Guinea, Sierra Leone and Cote d'Ivoire, have RTI laws.

We of Public Agenda are of the view that Ghana will lose out in the democratic league competition if we fail to get through this significant law. Ms Tlakula has hit the nail on the head, and we better wake up as a country and get our acts right and ensure that the passage of the Bill. A word to a wise, they say, is enough.