After years of delay the right to information has eventually entered in the statute allowing Ghanaians access to public office information as a means to holding government accountable.
This follows the signing of the Right To Information, RTI, Act by President Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo two months after the parliament passed it.
In an address, the president said he was happy that the feat had been achieved under his watch and congratulated the parliament for their commitment to the Bill. “I want to thank the seventh parliament for its courage, sense of responsibility and commitment to good governance in passing this significant piece of legislation.”
The purposes of the Act is to provide for the implementation of the constitutional right to information held by any public institution and to foster a culture of transparency and accountability in public affairs.
He added that if properly applied the Act could prove a critical tool in the fight against corruption in public life.
Although the right to information is enshrined in Ghana’s 1992 Constitution the country has struggled for many years to pass the RTI law. As far back as 1999, Ghana’s Institute of Economic Affairs (IEA) drafted an RTI Bill..
Despite this early start, Ghana has still not managed to adopt an RTI Law. In March 2018, the Right to Information Bill, 2018 (2018 Bill or Bill) was placed before Parliament. The current passage means it has taken a year to see the light of day.
It had been the subject of a series of protests especially from the media and civil society groups. They accused lawmakers of deliberately delaying the passage of the law because of their own selfish interests.
On their part, the lawmakers have argued that the bill needed fine tuning in areas especially bordering on national security.
Ghana’s media is one of the freest on the continent according to the press rights group, Reporters Without Borders. Incidentally on the day the Bill was accented to, there was a protest against the closure of radio stations deemed to be pro-opposition.
Journalists in Ghana largely believe that the passage of the bill into law will make their work easier especially in the area of accessing official government data.
Ghana, one of West Africa’s stable democracies, has had the press playing a crucial role in shaping the democracy. The killing earlier this year of an investigator linked to undercover journalist Anas Aremeyaw Anas was tagged as the most significant blot on the profession in recent years.
There has, however, been a rise in the spate of physical attacks on journalists. The most recent has led to calls for the media to boycott the activities of the police. The president is on record to have condemned the attacks.
Time will tell whether the Ghana Government will keep its word. Similar laws have been passed in South Africa, Angola, Zimbabwe, Uganda, Nigeria, Ethiopia, Rwanda, Liberia, Malawi and Guinea.