A free press is a feature of democracy that cannot be glossed over, taking into consideration the informative, educative and watchdog roles it plays.
Media freedom in Ghana is now enjoyed to the fullest after various battles the media has had from the pre-independence era with the colonial masters, to the post-independence era with the criminal libel law.
Article 162 of the 1992 Constitution, explicitly talks about freedom and independence of the media in Ghana.
3rd May of every year marks the international press freedom day and this year, the theme is “Keeping Power in check: Media, Justice and the Rule of law”.
One of the tools that the media need to keep power in check, ensure justice and the Rule of law is exercising their right to information.
The focus of this article is on Article 162 clause 5 which states that “All agencies of the mass media shall, at all times, be free to uphold the principles, provisions and objectives of this Constitution, and shall uphold the responsibility and accountability of the Government to the people of Ghana”; Article 21 clause 1 (f) which states that “all persons shall have the right to information, subject to such qualifications and laws as are necessary in a democratic society”, and the Right to Information Bill which is to give right and access to official information held by public institutions and private entities which perform public functions with public funds.
The Bill has suffered delay since it was drafted in 1999, reviewed in 2003, 2005 and 2007 and was presented to Parliament in 2010.
The first attempt to enact the law of Right to Information was made when the bill was presented to Parliament in February, 2010. Subsequently, the then Attorney General, Marietta Brew Appiah- Oppong, in June 2015, moved the Bill for the second reading awaiting passage in Parliament.
After the New Patriotic Party came to power in 2016, promises have been made by the Vice President, the President, the Minister for Parliamentary Affairs to pass the Bill.
A Right to Information Act, will not only allow citizens to exercise the constitutional right to information, but also be an avenue for the media to play its role as a watchdog and a guardian of transparency, over all powerful institutions in society, and ensure that their decisions and actions are in the interest of the larger society.
The Special Prosecutor Act did not suffer the delay that the Right to Information Bill is suffering even though both serve as avenues to fight corruption.
The Minister for Parliamentary Affairs, Osei Kyei Mensah- Bonsu proposed a new timeline for the passage of the Right to Information Bill at a training program with journalists in Parliament in November 2017.
According to the Minister, by the close of the second meeting of the next session of parliament (which translates to around July 2018), the Right to Information Bill should have been dealt with. Until then, let’s allow our voices to be heard; “let the bill be passed”!
Source: GhanaJustice/Frederica Kyeremateng