Professor Kwame Karikari, Convener, Coalition on the Right to Information (RTI), has cited lack of accountability and fear of transparency as the reasons for the reluctance of political parties to pass the RTI Bill.
“The implications for not passing a law for citizens’ right to information are a sign that the political parties are afraid of transparency and accountability in the affairs of Government,” he said.
Prof Karikari said this during a public lecture to commemorate the 2015 World Press Freedom Day in Accra under the theme: “Delay of the Right to Information Law: Understanding the People’s Right to Know and Devaluing Press Freedom”.
He said Ghana was being drenched and being drowned in all manner of anti-democratic and unpatriotic acts by people in high public and government office.
“It does not matter how loudly the public cries about acts of bad governance and malfeasance, the anthem of ‘ýentie obiara’ gets even louder,” he said.
Prof. Karikari said in the Fourth Republic, the media landscape was such that journalists were able to expose many acts of corruption, illegality and immorality in public affairs, which gave a false impression that there was openness in public affairs.
He noted that the media exposure of such negative things did not at all constitute access to information in Government’s custody, adding that the more critical information that citizens needed to know from Government were kept under lock.
Prof. Karikari said the passage of the RTI Bill would at least provide the citizenry an instrument to make the appropriate demands to know what existed and what happened on issues that affected their lives and also promote democratic interests and rights.
He wondered why the passage of the bill had delayed for the past 15 good years, adding that the Coalition feared that it might never be passed even though President John Dramani Mahama had promised on several occasions to pass it.
“President Mahama has only repeated his promise so far, but the delay continues, and so we are left with no other option but to interpret the state of affairs our own way,” he said.
Prof Karikari said the Coalition had worked very hard over the years to review several provisions which it considered inadequate in the different editions of the RTI Bill, adding that the draft, which they had finally concluded with the current Parliamentary Committee was good enough to enhance openness and transparency.
He, therefore, urged civil society groups and organisations, students, professional associations and religious bodies to add their voices to the call for the passage of the RTI Bill.
Dr Doris Yaa Dartey, Board Chairperson of Graphic Communications Group, wondered why Ghana, which touted herself as a democratic state, would not put in place measures which would make the citizenry easily access information.
She wondered the extent to which the freedom of speech as enshrined in the Constitution was used when the Right to Information Bill had not been passed.
Mr Tirso Dos Santos, Country Representative of UNESCO Ghana, noted that the gains Ghana had made as far as the advancement of democratic tenets were concerned could be easily eroded if laws were not enacted to protect them.
He said freedom and access to information formed the oxygen of democracy, adding that 11 African countries including Nigeria, South Africa, Guinea and Zimbabwe had all passed the freedom of information laws. GNA