June 27, 2013

Mr Jonathan Osei-Bonsu, Executive Director of Perfector of Sentiments (POS) Foundation, has called on Parliament to rectify anomalies in the Rights to Information (RTI) Bill before its passage to ensure free flow of information.

He observed that the Bill, which Cabinet had approved, contained some conditions likely to make it difficult for the media and other information seekers to obtain the needed information.

He said failure to correct these errors would render the bill ineffective when passed into law.

Mr Osei-Bonsu, who is also a member of the RTI coalition, said this at a day’s workshop on the challenges in some of the clauses of the RTI bill organized by the Center for Democratic Development (CDD) on Wednesday in Tamale.

He explained that the bill was weak due to the exemptions, which barred people from seeking information concerning the presidency and the elaborate penalty regime.

“I think it is suicidal to keep a clause that says that all information created by the national security cannot be accessed by the public. Bureaucrats and Technocrats will use this kind of clause to deny people from obtaining vital information, which is of public interests”, he said.

Mr Osei-Bonsu said the conditions and the delay in passing the bill into law was retiring the development of the nation because of peoples’ (especially Journalists) frustration in accessing crucial information concerning governance.

He said the non-existence of the RTI had given room for some media practitioners to speculate before eliciting the right information concerning issues.

Mr Caesar Abagali, Northern Regional Chairman of the Ghana Journalists Association (GJA), who chaired the function, observed that the absence of the RTI had paved way for some media practitioners to engage in rumour-mongering due to lack or inadequate information.

“Nowadays some journalists are found of giving excuses that when they call authorities to clarify issues their cell phones are off. Some even will also tell a lie that their quest to reach an official for clarification prove futile,” he said.

He commended the CDD and the coalition for taking the initiative to lead the advocacy for the passage of the bill into law and stressed the need for Parliament not to pay lip-service but act swiftly to pass the bill.

Mr Paul Osei Kuffour, Programmes Manager, Ghana Center for Democratic Development (CCD-Ghana), said access to information had been identified as one of the most important tool in ensuring accountability and transparency.

He said the government in its commitment to promote access to information in February 2010, presented the bill to Parliament but yet to be passed, which was worrisome.

Mr Victor Brobbey, Research Fellow, Governance Leader Policy of CDD, said there had been limitations on the access to information and that getting information usually took a lot of time.

He observed that Civil Society Organisations (CSO) mostly had access to information more than journalists and the ordinary people, which he said was not the best.

Mr Brobbey indicated that though the National Media Commission (NMC) was supposed to regulate the work of the media it had not been able to effectively do that, saying “when information is distorted by a journalist, he or she could be punished”.