RTI great democratic stride

BY: Lawrence Mantey

The passing of the Right to Information Bill into law and the subsequent launch of the office of the Commission for Right to Information are steps in the right direction for improving democracy in Ghana.

In the United States, press freedom is a crucial part of their democracy.

A major role of the media is to expose public officials on wrong doing.

Citizens can hold officials accountable for setting things right only if they know about errors and wrongdoings.

The current laws will contribute immensely in that regard.

Another crucial role of the media is to clarify issues for the understanding of ordinary citizens.

The news media is to make clear what electoral choices the public has.

What the political parties in the country stand for and how the candidates they present to the public shape up in personal character, intelligence and knowledge on issues.

Without such information, it would be difficult for the electorate to make intelligent choices.

Even without formal censorship or government ownership of the media, several factors including the way in which the news media are organised and their routine of news gathering limit how willing or able the news media are to be critical of government policies.

Most of the time, the media is too quick to blow scandal out of proportion to destroy political leaders career.

Unfortunately, the media tend to pay more attention to the “horse race” aspect of political campaigns or go overboard in digging up dirt and reporting negative materials than policy position of candidates.

More worrying is the perception out there by the public that the media do not provide unbiased information and analyses.

Scholars and media critics who want the news media to be highly informative, analytical and issue-oriented however are often appalled by the personalised, episodic, dramatic and fragmented character of most news stories which do not provide sustained and coherent explanations of what is going on.

To the extent that this is true, the news media is not serving democracy as they might.

On the balance, the media have helped in the advancement of democracy.

If we have fought for media freedom and have won, then we have to fight more for media responsibility as well.

The writer is with the Institute of Current Affairs and Diplomacy (ICAD), E-mail: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.