500 Sign petition to demand passage of RTI bill

BY: Sebastian Syme
Prof Ransford Gyampo (left) interacting with Mr Paolo Salvia (right), acting head of the delegation of the European Union. Picture: INNOCENT K. OWUSU
Prof Ransford Gyampo (left) interacting with Mr Paolo Salvia (right), acting head of the delegation of the European Union. Picture: INNOCENT K. OWUSU

The Centre for European Studies (CES) at the University of Ghana has mobilised about 500 signatures of students, civil society groups, journalists and other interest groups in the country in a petition to demand the immediate passage of the Right to Information (RTI) Bill in the next meeting of Parliament.

To further mount pressure on Parliament to pass the Bill, the RTI Coalition, headed by Mr Seth Abloso, has also indicated its intention to begin a countdown for the passage of the RTI as soon as Parliament reconvenes on May 15, 2018.

The passage of the RTI Bill dominated discussions at a public lecture organised by the CES with the support of the European Union (EU) to commemorate the World Press Freedom Day at the University of Ghana.

It was held on the theme: “European and International Perspectives on Press Freedom, Freedom of Expression and Access to Information: Lessons for Ghana.”

Delivering the lecture, the Executive Director of Access Info Europe, a human rights organisation based in Madrid, Ms Helen Darbinshire, said passing the Bill would properly ensure accountability, expose corruption and increase efficiency in the public service.
Ms Darbinshire noted, however, that “it will be a mistake to think that passing the Bill alone is enough to eliminate corruption and maladministration.”


Enhanced accountability

She reiterated that an RTI Bill would enhance the decision-making process to make those in authority more accountable to the people.

She added that releasing information in a timely fashion was equally one of the essential qualities of a functioning RTI law.

She entreated the Ghanaian authorities to endeavour to pass the RTI Bill without further delay to put the country on the global map “alongside the other 123 countries that have RTI laws.”

Panel discussion

Contributing to a panel discussion, the Director of Freedom of Expression and Media Development at UNESCO in Paris, Mr Guy Berger, expressed disappointment about Ghana’s failure to pass the RTI Bill after the several assurances from the government.

He stated that the world was gradually transiting from an industrial to information society for which reason Ghana had no excuse not to pass the law.

The President of the Ghana Journalists Association (GJA), Mr Affail Monney, who expressed optimism about the passage of the law, indicated that proponents of the RTI were looking forward to having an independent commissioner in place to administer the Bill once it was passed.

He stated that the GJA and other coalition groups were closely monitoring the situation to further draw the attention of Parliament to expedite action of the passage.

Feet dragging

The Director of the CES, Professor Ransford Gyampo, criticised Members of Parliament from both sides for their lackadaisical attitude towards the passage of the law.

According to him, their apparent disinterest and posturing in passing the law was informed by acts of corruption and other acts of impunity by politicians who feared to be exposed should the law get passed.

He questioned why the RTI, which was first espoused by the late Mr B.J. da Rocha about 13 years ago, still remained a Bill and not a law.