RTI Coalitions Threaten Court Action if Law is Mutilated with Exemptions

Right to Information (RTI) Coalitions and Civil Society Organizations (CSOs) have issued a warning they would head to the Supreme Court if Parliament mutilates the RTI law, to have it strike down as unconstitutional and inconsistent with Article 21 (1) f of the 1992 Constitution.
The Coalitions noted that Ghanaians expect the Legislature to pass a Right to Information law that will assert the right of Ghanaians to public information and stressed the need to ensure exemptions are consistent with provisions of the Constitution.
Media Coalition on RTI, in conjunction with Right to Information Coalition and Occupy Ghana together with other CSOs stormed Parliament last week as part of #RTIRedFriday against delay by Parliament in passing the Right to Information (RTI) Bill.
Members of the RTI Coalitions dressed in red garbs first converged at various spots in Accra to educate people on the significance of passing the bill into law.
A Member of the Coalition, Lawyer Akoto Ampaw, who spoke to the media, argued that an RTI law that provides exemptions for state bodies and government institutions to deny the public critical information defeats the whole purpose of an RTI law.
This, he said, is the reason why there is constant battle between people who stand for transparency, openness and accountability in public affairs and those interested in continuing the old, archaic and authoritarian tradition of control and secrecy in governance.
According to him, there is a need to address some troubling clauses in the bill that have the tendency of mutilating the RTI law and stressed that exemptions in every RTI legal regime determine whether the law is an RTI law or not.
He cautioned that limits to citizens to the RTI law are clearly spelt in the Constitution, which states that every person has a right to information subject to limitations that are necessary in a democratic society.
He said, “The controlling word here is necessity, meaning what is necessary for the functioning of a democratic society that can be exempted.”
The test of an RTI law, Mr. Akoto Ampaw said, is not to embarrass a government or expose a president and ministers but to test whether it is necessary to protect the interest of society.
“There is therefore a need to ensure the exemptions are consistent with provisions of the 1992 Constitution,” he stated.
People exercising governmental authority, he said, do so on behalf of citizens and their supreme interest but stressed that Parliament has not demonstrated commitment to pass the RTI law to serve the interest of Ghanaians.
According to him, to test the words of politicians look at what they do in practice and at their actions and that will tell the lack of commitment to pass the law.
He said, “A well constructed RTI law will recognise the sovereignty of the people and help promote accountability and fight against corruption.”
“It will promote proper and effective record keeping, which is a panacea for developing any country and will also ensure participation of Ghanaians in public and government processes for a better country and society.”

By Osumanu Al-Hassan/uthmanhass@gmail.com

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