The office’s attempt to allay fears of politicians follow speculation that Members of Parliament and government appointees have stalled passage of the country’s 12-year old information bill into law because politicians panic they would be harassed and hounded when the proposed law is approved.
But Head of CHRI, Africa office in Accra told journalists after a public lecture to mark the 2016 World Press Freedom that they should not entertain any fear because the information law would rather mitigate the incidence of unsubstantiated rumours and change the development dynamics of the country for faster growth.
“I think that it is a misconception because this law is supposed to empower the citizenry so that they can develop themselves and better their lot,” Ms Mina Mensah said.
“It is not a law meant to harass politicians, they the politicians themselves will stand to benefit because it will enhance their work, it will be easy for them to get information from public services, because they themselves find it difficult to do their work effectively, so it will actually enhance their work.”
“There will be more transparency, rumours will be minimised and in terms of journalism it will enhance our journalism so people will not have to be using ‘conjectures’ [in order to ] come out with the right information.
“I think that in this age of openness in governance and the citizen participation when you have the right to information law it will encourage the citizens to participate more in development.
“So I think that the RTI law if it is passed and implemented in a robust manner will change the dynamics in terms of the relationship between government and the citizenry, it will help the course of our development.”
Ms Mina said the Africa Union has standards on how the information law looks like while other countries have passed RTI into law, saying “Nigeria has RTI law, Sierra Leone has RTI law, Liberia has RTI law, other countries have RTI laws and they should find who are being hounded.”
The public lecture was on the theme: “Promoting transparency and informed choices in democracy; the role of the right to information.”
The Ghana Journalists Association demanded speedy passage of the Information Bill and requested parliament reduce clauses with the potential to impede information hamper access.
Ghana’s RTI Bill, initiated in 2003, has been going back and forth from government to government and from parliament to cabinet, and was finally placed before parliament on February 5, 2010.
A total of 13 African countries, including South Africa, Uganda, Ethiopia, Tunisia, Rwanda, Zimbabwe, Nigeria, Liberia, Niger, Guinea, Sierra Leone and Cote d’Ivoire have RTI laws but Ghana is struggling to have one.
By D.I. Laary, GNA