Mr Samson Lardy Anyenini, lawyer and Journalist has stated that the Right To Information (RTI) law was not the preserve of only journalists, but meant for every Ghanaian to have the right to access information.
He explained that, Journalists were likely to utilise the RTI law more, because they were more familiar with information seeking in the pursuance of their profession and especially in their bid to present accurate and factual information to members of the public and their patrons.
Mr Anyenini cleared the misconception at a forum organised by the Media Foundation for West Africa (MFWA), for media practitioners on the RTI law in Tamale.
The forum was to compliment efforts of the Ministry of Information to increase citizen’s access to information and participation in local governance.
According to Mr Anyenini, every citizen was entitled to accessing information via the RTI process, when government sanctions its implementation and expressed optimism that the implementation may come to fruition soon.
He urged the citizenry, especially journalists, to read more on the law in order to insist on their rights to know as already guaranteed by Article 21.(1f) of the 1992 constitution, which serves as the bedrock for the RTI law.
Mr Anyenini warned that it was a punishable offence and by law, for an information seeker to present false information, including; faking identity to solicit information under the RTI law and said fines on such offences attracted GHC 3000 to GHC6000 or one to three years imprisonment or both.
According to him, every institution needed an information officer and a desk dedicated to processing and maintaining information in an accurate and authentic way, before the implementation of the law.
Four structures meant to facilitate the RTI law the lawyer indicated must be in place, and mentioned information holders, that is “public institutions” where the information could be sourced, and headed by information officers, which could be heads of institutions or officers delegated as mouthpiece of the institution.
The second stricture he said involved the establishment of a seven-member RTI Commission to be appointed by government which he observed was not in place and partly attributed the delay in the implementation of the law to the absence of the commission.
A third structure of the law, he indicated was the exemptions regime, where accessing critical information involving what he described as classified, needed to go through some processes and said classified information did not refer to information that could not be accessed, adding that one only needed to use the appropriate rules to access such information.
Mr Anyenini said the fourth structure addressed how to access information from the information holder and indicated that information holders were under obligation to generate, process and maintain information in accurate fashion to avoid distortions.
He stated that information officers were insulated and indemnified by the law, adding that they were not liable to any forms of punishments including suits, claims among others when they avertedly commit or cause any omissions in providing the information sought.