27th November, 2018
OCCUPYGHANA® PRESS STATEMENT
#RTIRedFriday DECLARED FOR 30 NOVEMBER! OCCUPYGHANA®, MEDIA AND RTI COALITIONS ANNOUNCE JOINT ACTION ON RIGHT TO INFORMATION
OccupyGhana® announces that it has joined hands with likeminded Media and Civil Society Organisations to declare Friday, November 30, 2018 and every other Friday before Christmas as #RTIRedFriday against the demonstrable lack of commitment and delay by Parliament in passing the Right to Information (RTI) Bill into law.
We note that even though the Bill is in Parliament, there appears to be a deliberate ploy by some parliamentarians to engineer delays. That is why on consecutive occasions, Parliament could not form a quorum to discuss the Bill which is at the Consideration Stage.
As noted by OccupyGhana® a year ago, the inexcusably long delay of over 19 years by successive Governments under the Fourth Republican Constitution to pass this law suggests that Governments are simply afraid to pass a law that will help actualize a right that the Constitution has already given to Ghanaians. Unless and until the law is passed, Ghanaians are entitled to conclude that Governments will seek any and every excuse to defer the passage of this law for as long as possible.
We, and indeed many Ghanaians cannot help but notice the sense of urgency with which Government and Parliament rush to pass bills that they consider important. On such occasions, Parliament has been recalled from recess or stayed in late to work on certain bills. OccupyGhana® is particularly disappointed in this delay considering the much-touted credentials of this Government and the President as regards to the rule of law and good governance.
We remind Government that the courts have held that the right to information does not require an Act of Parliament to be exercised. Yet there remain substantive and procedural impediments to the exercise of this right. The current ‘default’ position of Government departments is to either refuse or simply not answer any request for information. This forces citizens to go to court every time they seek to exercise that right. This is unacceptable and has to be addressed to ensure a straightforward and low cost system for the public to be able to enforce requests for information.
This Government and this Parliament is at serious risk of showing the people of Ghana that they are no different from their predecessors over nearly two decades when it comes to giving the people of this country their right to information. OccupyGhana® is therefore calling on the President to rally his Government to pass this law without further delay.
OccupyGhana® further expects that the Bill, when passed into law, will set out clear parameters and instances where the government will exercise public interest privilege (this is the privilege that allows government to refuse the disclosure of a document or information which is against the public interest.) The current wide-bound interpretation of the government on this privilege is, in our view, the greatest substantive and procedural hurdle to the full realisation of the right to information. Any law that does not deal with this matter in a manner that eases the right to information would be worthless and not have been worth the wait. The law should ensure that any doubts as to whether there is such a privilege be resolved in favour or granting, rather than withholding, such information.
OccupyGhana® is calling on the public to exert even more pressure on government and parliament to pass this law by participating in the activities lined up as part of the #RTIRedFriday. We must not accept the status quo and the excuses coming from Parliament on this nearly 20-year delay.
Yours, for God & Country,