Though progressive and helpful, journalists should under no circumstance expect to meet daily deadlines with the newly passed Right to Information (RTI) law, former Executive Director at the Media Foundation for West Africa (MFWA) and Dean of the School of Communication Studies at the Wisconsin University College, Prof. Kwame Karikari has said.
Speaking on the sidelines of a Civil society stakeholders forum on the Right to Information Act 2019 (Act 989) Tuesday, Prof. Karikari was excited about the advancement of professional journalism with the introduction of the Act, noting how progressive it is and how much journalists can improve their work with its implementation.
Regardless, he cautioned that these media persons should not exceed their expectations by assuming that the law can help them achieve short deadlines as far as content creation and information generation for publication and dissemination is concerned.
“By and large, it is a very progressive law, and we hope that we can implement it effectively. For the media, I think that the provisions in there provide them an opportunity to improve their work because it enhances advancement of professional journalism, however, journalists must not think that they can use the law to achieve short deadlines”, he said.
“The law as it is requires that when you seek information, there is a certain time period within which you can access information therefore, daily deadlines are not necessarily what the law is about but for media content, reporting on issues that do not require immediate deadlines, I think the law is a very useful one”, he added.
Prof. Karikari was also emphatic about the role of government in setting up the required structures needed to boost the smooth implementation of the law.
“All of these said, the important thing is setting up the infrastructure for the effective implementation of the law, for instance, the government ought to appoint as early as possible the commissioner, the support staff for the commission, appointment of the board, the chair and members of the board of the governing body for the implementation of the law and then also providing infrastructure such as offices and other facilities for effective implementation of the law”.
It’s rather impractical, he added, the effective enactment of the law according to him, if citizens are not adequately educated about the law, what it seeks to achieve and how to use it.
The onus therefore falls on the mass media and the National Commission on Civic Education (NCCE) he maintained, to accrue the necessary resources for thorough education of the public about the law.
“For citizens to make very effective use of this right, they’ll need education. Citizens must be informed, educated about the law and therefore, they must acquire the knowledge in order that they’d be empowered to seek information that is of interest to them and to do this, two institutions are critical.”
“The mass media must take it up as a duty to educate the public about the law; what is in it and how to use it but above all, I think that the National Commission on Civic Education (NCCE) should also be requested to look for the resources to engage in widespread and thorough education of the public on the right to information law that has been passed”.
The Civil Society Stakeholders’ Forum on the Right to Information Act 2019 (Act 989) was held by the RTI Coalition Tuesday July 23, 2019 to among other things, celebrate the passage of the law and look at the way forward as far as effective implementation is concerned.
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