For years Ghana has been on this journey, the journey to entrench and fortify the freedom of information.
The voyage has been tortuous, with citizens over time getting frustrated and apprehensive and wondering whether the political class was committed to passing the Right to Information (RTI) Bill.
In 1999 when the bill was drafted, perhaps few ever thought it was going to take almost a decade, after it had been presented to Parliament, for this “simple” responsibility to be performed. Whichever way we look at it, the RTI Bill has, at long last, been passed. This is a feather in the cap of the country’s democracy.
One tenet of democracy is the right of the citizenry to access information.
Arguably, the absence of information may derail efforts by the citizens to reach their aspirations, as that sidelines them from participating in debates and discussions on their welfare.
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Even where and when citizens are included in debates and discussions, they lack the basic information that will allow them to present solid and convincing alternatives.
Indeed, the right to information has become synonymous with democracy, as it is a tool to strengthen citizens’ sovereignty.
The Daily Graphic thus pays immense tribute to the originators of this bill whose love for the democratic dispensation and the central role of the citizenry has culminated in the RTI Law.
We recall personalities and scholars such as B.J. da Rocha, Justice P.D. Anim, Justice Charles Coussey, Professor Kofi Kumado and Justice R.J. Hayfron Benjamin who, as scholars of the Institute of Economic Affairs, produced the draft of the bill.
They have really left their footprints in the golden sands of Ghana’s RTI regime.
As we celebrate the passage of the RTI Bill, the Daily Graphic reasons that the passage and even its assent by the President do not make it automatic that it is going to be smooth sailing working with the law.
Our reasoning is based on the experiences gathered from the passage of the Representation of the People’s Amendment Act whose implementation has been bogged down with lots of issues that have delayed its implementation.
We understand that after the passage of the bill, a legislative instrument must be put in place to define and detail, among others, the day specified in the instrument for purposes of the commencement of the instrument.
This is where we entreat the representatives of the people to expedite action to ensure that the necessary framework is put in place to operationalise the act after its assent.
We encourage citizens with the requisite knowledge, expertise and experience to contribute their quota to make the implementation of the act as smooth as possible for the benefit of Mother Ghana.
We are also enthused about the interest that the bill generated before its passage.
At least, contrary to the notion that the passage of the RTI Bill into law was going to primarily benefit media and communication practitioners, especially journalists, every citizen, when the act is implemented and enforced, can demand accountability from rulers.
For instance, any citizen can demand the cost of a project, its duration and specification without being denied the facts.
If there are any good things that have happened to our nascent democracy since its inception over a quarter of a century ago, the Daily Graphic thinks this is one of the major breakthroughs.
In this wise, we counsel public organisations and officers to start acquainting themselves with the provisions, so that they do not find themselves at the wrong side of the law when it is implemented.
Also, we must bear in mind that there will still remain issues of which information will be held confidential in the interest of the nation.
It behoves all to make this law work smoothly as we build a society that is open and transparent, which will invariably be for the total good and development of the country.