RTI Coalition supports Parliament with Option Paper
The Right to Information Coalition has augmented the process for the passage of the “Right to Information Bill 2010,” with submission of option paper- “Zero Draft,” to the Legislature, Mr. Akoto Ampaw stated in Accra on Wednesday.
The Zero Draft seeks to focus on certain key issues within the Bill which needed to be re-visited or improved upon to bring it in conformity with international human rights standards and best practices on RTI.
Speaking on “Key Elements of the Zero Draft- Proposed Amendments of the Text of Bill,” Mr. Ampaw, who is a Member of RTI Coalition, said the Zero Draft was produced taking into account the reputation of Ghana as a beacon of democracy in Africa and the fact that many African countries looked to Ghana for good example to emulate.
“A Ghana Right to Information Law is thus most likely to be a reference source for other African countries struggling to build democratic institutions of governance and a culture of democracy.
“We have taken into account the fundamental principles underpinning any genuine and effective right to information legislation, which include transparency, openness, effective participation of the population in the processes of governance, accountability and the curtailment of rank corruption”.
Other issues considered are the promotion of social justice and the delivery of social services through the role the right to information plays in giving expression to other rights.
It was drafted with the views expressed by Ghanaians across the length and breadth of the country during the nation-wide consultations held by the Parliamentary Select Joint Committee.
Mr. Ampaw said, the zero draft was guided by commentary of the Coalition on the Right to Information, Ghana; the Model Draft Law for AU Member States on Access to Information prepared under the auspices of the Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Expression and Access to Information.
Others are the Declaration of Principles on Freedom of Expression in Africa by the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights; the Public Right to Know Principles of Article XIX; and a Model Freedom of Information Law by Article XIX endorsed by the UN Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Opinion and Expression.
The rest are the Freedom of Information Act of the Republic of Liberia, 2010; the Freedom of Information Act of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 2011; the Promotion for Access to Information Act of the Republic of South Africa, 2000; the India Right to Information Act, 2002; the UK Freedom of Information Act, 2000; and the Mexican Federal Transparency and Access to Public Government Information Law, 2002.
On general exemptions, the zero draft proposes that a public or private body or agency may refuse to grant access to information only if the information falls within an exemption provided for in the Act.
Public interest override notwithstanding any of the provisions of the Act on exemptions, information is not exempt and the information officer must grant a request for access to information if the disclosure of the information will reveal or reveals evidence of:
“A contravention of, or failure to comply with a law; or an imminent and serious risk to public safety, public health or the environment; miscarriage of justice; abuse of authority or neglect in the performance of official function, abuse of authority or neglect in the performance an official duty or other legitimate public interest so requires;
“And the benefits of disclosure outweigh the harm or danger that could occur in the event of disclosure”.
On Classified Information, the Zero Draft proposes that the fact that any information in the custody of a public body/agency is kept by that body/agency under security classification or is a classified document within the meaning of the Official Secrets Act, does not preclude it from being disclosed pursuant to an application for disclosure.
Thereof under the provisions of this Act, but in every case the public body/agency to which the application is made shall decide whether such information is of a type referred to as exempt information under this Act.
If the public body/agency to which the application in subsection (1) is made, decides that such information is not a type mentioned in the sections referred to in subsection (1), access to such information shall be given to the applicant, notwithstanding its categorization as classified security information.
The workshop was organised by the Media Foundation for West Africa (MFWA) in collaboration with Ghana Right to Information Coalition and the 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.
It was attended by civil society activists from Ghana, Uganda, South Africa, Nigeria and Mexico.**