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Opinions of Tuesday, 11 May 2010

Columnist: Ashiagbor, Eddie

The Ghanaian Condition (Part 9)

THE RIGHT TO INFORMATION BILL---MATTERS ARISING.

The Right to Information Bill has been laid before Parliament for deliberations and hopefully,for passage. This is a Bill which in all honesty when properly scrutinized,non-partisantly debated and passed will go a long way in entrenching and fortifying our young democracy.

The essence of this Bill is to empower the citizenry to hold to account all our officials in positions of TRUST & RESPONSIBILITY,be he the President ,Minister,Member of Parliament,Head of Government Institutions and what have you.. For far too long our leaders have been riding rough-shod on us and are neither Transparent nor Accountable to us the people whose interests they are supposed to represent.

Coming to the Bill itself there are areas which if not corrected or removed will do UNTOLD HARM and render the whole Bill unworkable.. These points were clearly and unambiguously high-lighted by Lawyer Mr.Akoto Ampaw when he gave a lecture at the Ghana International Press Centre on the World Press Freedom Day Celebration on the theme “Freedom of Information:The Right to Know” According to him Section 7 (3) of the RTI Bill states that “All information created by or in the custody of the Security Agencies is totally EXEMPT” emphasis mine. He conceded that nobody is saying that every information in the hands of the Security Agencies should be disclosed to the public,but that non-disclosure should be related to the “HARM TEST”.That is information should not be disclosed to the public if its disclosure would cause a REAL HARM to national security.

The other contentious aspect of the Bill as he mentioned are a number of very dangerous blanket provisions,which states that all information apart from data and figures in the offices of the President ,the Vice-President and Cabinet stood exempted.