The foundation of every democratic society is the people having the right to know, otherwise, they will not be able to hold their elected representatives accountable, Mr Kojo Oppong Nkrumah, Information Minister has said.
He said Article 21(1)F of the 1992 Constitution gives Ghanaians the right to information; adding that, the Right To Information (RTI) Act was a procedural Act, which exerts the benefits of Article 21(1)F.
Mr Oppong Nkrumah said this, on Tuesday in Accra at the Media Forum on the RTI.
The Forum was organised by the Ghana Journalists Association (GJA), in collaboration with the Media Foundation for West Africa and the Chevening Alumni.
“We are in the exercise of building what they call a better society. We are all challenged that the Ghanaian society as we find it today, as we come to a point of consciousness, we all have a part to play, a responsibility to contribute to building a better Ghanaian society. That has been the challenge over the decades, even prior to independence and from independence.”
He said successive layers of leaders and citizens had been working to build a better Ghanaian society; stating that “that is the challenge that you also have as young people, that as we come to position of influence and leadership, as we are equipped, we will contribute to building a better Ghanaian society”.
He noted that one of the instruments that they use in building a better Ghanaian society is the law.
Mr Oppong Nkrumah said the 1992 Constitution declares that in Ghana, sovereignty lies with the people.
“The people are at the heart of this entire nation-state. Our aspirations, what we do, what we don’t want to do, it must all be about the people,” he said.
“And we have chosen for ourselves a democracy as the best way to govern ourselves; a democracy in which the people must have the power to decide what they want and what they don’t want, where we go and where we don’t go as a country”.
The Minister said people must have the right to know, “Because if the people do not know, they can’t make the right choices, they can’t move the society in the right direction, they can’t exert the right kind of benefits or desires from those who govern them.
“So at the heart of our governance system, which is the democracy, is our Constitution and at the heart of that is our people and at the heart of the people functioning is the right of the people to know.”
He said a democracy in which the people do not know what was going on and therefore, could not participate, take decision and move in a particular direction, and could not also exercise both their rights and responsibilities as citizens, then that democracy would not function as it ought to.
“And so in the 1992 Constitution, we have Article 21(1) f, which gives us the right to information. So if anybody is to tell you that we did not have the right to information until we passed the RTI Act that will be untrue; because the constitution is what gave us the right to information,” he said.
“Indeed, even when we did not have the right to information, citizens and persons were entitled to the information; the only problem was that there was no clear procedure on how to get that information.”
Mr Oppong Nkrumah said the RTI Act would go long way to help both students and researchers in their efforts to obtain information.
Mr Affail Monney, GJA President, said the media stands to gain immeasurably from the RTI Law, simply because access to information was fundamental to their ability to report accurately, analyse professionally and criticise constructively.
Mr Abdul Razzak Yakubu, Chevening Alumni President, said the role of the media was highly significant in any democratic dispensation.