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Politics Wed, 20 Jun 2012

Civil Society intensify pressure on legislature to pass RTI Bill

Participants at a National Stakeholders Conference on Right to Information (RTI) on Wednesday intensified pressure on Parliament to pass the Bill into Law to serve as an example to spur other African countries to emulate.

“The passage of a strong right to information law by Ghana, considered as beacon of African democracy, will motivate other governments to initiate the processes for passing such laws in their respective countries.

“Ghana has no justification to further delay the passage of the Bill as a pace setter, other African countries are keenly watching the processes…in fact it’s now becoming embarrassing for Ghana on the continent as a torch bearer not to have passed the RTI Bill as at 2012,” Mr. Patrick Tumwine, Ugandan Human Rights Advocates stated in Accra.

Mr. Tumwine, who is RTI Programme Manager for Human Rights Network of Uganda (HURINET), was speaking at a day’s workshop organised by Media Foundation for West Africa (MFWA) in collaboration with Ghana Right to Information Coalition and Africa Freedom of Information Centre (AFIC).

The RTI workshop was to highlight the Coalition’s proposed amendments and seek the support of government, political parties, civil society organisations as well as the general public, for the adoption of the proposals by Parliament.

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Mr. Tumwine revealed that Uganda took three years to pass the RTI Bill but took five years to pass a Legislative Instrument on the Law, “I can’t understand why the process is taking ages in Ghana, which we all look up in terms of strengthening democratic pillars”.

In a communique issued at the end of the workshop, the participants acknowledged that political commitment to the right of access to information was necessary for the adoption, full implementation and enforcement of access to information legislation in Ghana.

In addition, it was recognized that the passage of RTI Bill into law was just the first step in the process; more challenging would be the process of implementation to ensure that openness, transparency and ready access to information.

The communique stated that for RTI to become fully integrated and internalised in Ghanaian political and public service culture; Government and Parliament must ensure that sufficient logistical and material resources were provided for the implementation of the Law.

Consequently, the participants recommended that the Parliamentary Select Joint Committee took urgent steps to finalise the “RTI Zero Draft,” and make the necessary amendments to the Bill and present its report to Parliament.

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Parliament should endorse the amendment to the Bill and pass the RTI Bill before their tenure of office ended on January 7, 2013.

“While we commend efforts of the Joint Committee in ensuring public engagement and exchange of ideas on the Bill, we must emphasise that a good bill is more desirable than a rushed and mutilated bill passed into Law.

“It is necessary to generate the active involvement of the public as well as civil society organisations, to ensure that our RTI law meets international standards,” the communiqué stated.

The 1992 Constitution recognises the right of access to information as a fundamental right for Ghanaian citizens.

The Ghana Right to Information Bill, 2010, therefore seeks to provide for the implementation of the right of access to information as guaranteed under Article 21(1) (f) of the Constitution.

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The Bill was tabled before Parliament on February 5, 2010. It was subsequently referred to the Parliamentary Select Joint Committees on Communications; and Constitutional, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs for scrutiny.

The Joint Committee held a review meeting on public consultations and decided that certain concerns raised by the Coalition and the general public on the content of the Bill during the nation-wide consultations needed to be revisited and amended to bring the Bill into conformity with international human rights standards and best practices on the right to information.

The Ghana Right to Information coalition prepared and submitted a “Zero Draft,” addressing the specific issues identified by the joint committee.

Participants were from Ghana, South Africa, Nigeria, Uganda, and Mexico who used the platform to share experiences.**

Source: GNA