The Coalition of CSOs on the RTI Bill is threatening legal action if the bill is passed with exemptions that are inconsistent with the constitution.
According to a member of the coalition, Akoto Ampaw, the bill if passed must reflect the reality that indeed leaders in a democratic state are servants of the people.
The Private legal practitioner spoke to Citi News during the coalition’s visit to parliament earlier today to protest the delay in the passage of the RTI Bill.
“State bodies saying they cannot disclose information defeats the whole purpose of RTI and that is why you will always find out that in the process of the RTI, there are always strong battles between people who stand for transparency and openness and accountability and those who want to continue the old, archaic, authoritarian tradition of control and secrecy in governance and you will see that unfortunately there are people in our Parliament who are for the continuing secrecy and control and anti democratic policy and some of them are even saying that this RTI is a threat to Ghana.”
“Parliament has a duty under the constitution to ensure that their exemptions are consistent with the provisions of the constitution and my point is that yes; they are parliamentarians, they can suppose that we can have their say and they will have our day but if they go ahead and mutilate the exemption provision, we are ready to take whatever law they pass to the Supreme Court for the Supreme Court to strike it down as inconsistent with Article 21 (1) of the constitution. If Parliament as exercising the power of government, passes the RTI bill into law, which frustrates the constitutional provision that Ghanaians have access to information we will challenge it.”
Journalists who are members of the Media Coalition for the passage of the RTI bill into law, together with some civil society organizations on Friday joined a public campaign as part of measures to mount pressure on government to pass the bill.
Despite several appeals, the bill, which seeks to promote a fundamental human right guaranteed in the country’s 1992 Constitution and recognized as a right under International Conventions on Human rights, has not been been passed, although it has been in and out of Parliament for nearly two decades.
The campaign dubbed #RTIRedFriday saw members of the coalition and journalists engage in street advocacy where they distributed leaflets to citizens educating them about the importance of the RTI law.
Some members of the Coalition also gained access to the gallery of Parliament clad in their red attires to draw the attention of the MPs. Although they were initially prevented from entering the chamber despite an earlier agreement, some minority MPs intervened to ensure they gained entry.
We’ll pass RTI bill as promised – Government
A Deputy Minister for Information, Nana Ama Dokua has said although the bill must be passed, it must be done in such a way that it will serve a good purpose.
“Although we wish the bill is passed in no time, we would also want to have a bill that will be useful. It is not up to the executives to rush Parliament, but rather Parliament must go through the bill to make the necessary amendments before it is passed. So I think it is in our interest to have the bill passed”, she said.
Pressure for RTI bill to be passed
The Bill as has been drafted is to give substance to Article 21 (1) (f) of the Constitution which states that “All persons shall have the right to information subject to such qualifications and laws as are necessary for a democratic society.”
Failed political promises
Various advocacy groups emerged to press for the immediate passing of the bill into law in 2002, and it was reviewed in 2003, 2005 and 2007.
In October 2016, the Bill was withdrawn and replaced with a new one which was immediately laid.
Following the dissolution of the Sixth Parliament of the Fourth Republic, and the swearing-in of the new Parliament in January 2017, the Bill had to be re-laid by the new government for work to commence on it.