The Media Coalition on the Right to Information Bill still has some reservations despite the passing of the Right to Information (RTI) Bill into law.
The group still has some concerns with some clauses in the Bill deemed potential barriers to accessing information.
The group, which has vigorously campaigned for the passage of the RTI Bill and had put extra pressure on Parliament to fast track the process. It had also suggested the review of some of the clauses before the passage but its request was turned down.
Elvis Darko, a leading member of the Media Coalition and Editor of the Finder newspaper told Citi News that “we are happy if the Bill is a Bill that will be credible, and will make access to information easy.”
In clause 13 of the Bill, public institutions are given protection under the guise of shielding deliberative processes.
“The deliberative process of every institution should be protected and they left it like that,” Mr. Darko bemoaned.
“That blanket protection could be misconstrued and used to deny those who apply for information so Parliament should just have added one more clause that says when the deliberative process ends, protection given to all information also ends but Parliament rejected that proposal. Meanwhile, it is information we are looking for that is why we are passing the Bill.”
The RTI is supposed to be a fundamental human right guaranteed by the Constitution and recognized as a right under International Conventions on Human rights.
The passage of the Bill gives 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.”
The RTI Bill was first drafted in 1999 under former President, Jerry John Rawlings.
The National Democratic Congress (NDC) in its 2008 and 2012 election manifestos promised to ensure the Bill was passed. In 2010, it was presented to Parliament for consideration.
In 2011, the government signed unto the Open Government Partnership (OGP) Initiative with a commitment to pass the law. In November 2013, the Bill was formally laid before Parliament.
Former Attorney General, Deputy Dominic Ayine in 2015, moved the Bill for second reading in Parliament. In October 2016, the Bill was withdrawn and replaced with a new one which was immediately laid.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 new Parliament in January 2017, the Bill had to be re-laid by the new government before work commences on it.
Parliament finally passed RTI Bill into law on Tuesday, March 26, 2019, after several policy changes and amendments.