The Media Foundation for West Africa (MFWA) has called on Ghana’s President Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo and the leadership of the country’s Parliament to take all appropriate steps to ensure the passage of Ghana’s Right to Information (RTI) bill and to have it signed into Law before the country hosts the world to mark this year’s World Press Freedom Day (WPFD).
Ghana is billed to host the global community for the celebration of this year’s WPFD in May. The WPFD is commemorated annually around the world under the auspices of UNESCO and its global partners, including governments. The day is observed to celebrate the fundamental principles of press freedom and to advance the cause of journalism. It will be the first time Ghana is serving as the host country for the global event and the only country in West Africa after Senegal to host the event.
According to MFWA’s Executive Director, Mr. Sulemana Braimah, it is not too late for the government to pass the Bill, and passing the bill will show the country’s commitment to the pursuit of democratic values.
“It will be embarrassing for us if we host the World Press Freedom Day and we still do not have the RTI bill. It is quite worrying that countries around us and countries in Africa, that we appear to be doing better than, who praise Ghana all the time, have gone ahead to have the Right to Information law in place,” he said.
Mr. Braimah stressed that one of the fundamental requirements for the advancement of journalism, which is also recognised as a fundamental human right, is the right to access information, adding that peoples’ right to information guaranteed by law and respected in practice constitutes a very foundational pre-requisite for strengthening democracy and ensuring good governance.
He said the importance of Right to Information as a fundamental right and an enabler of democracy is reflected in its codification in several international and continental human rights mechanisms and frameworks.
Mr. Braimah noted that at the international level, RTI is guaranteed in Article 19 of both the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights while in Africa, RTI is guaranteed in the African Charter on Human and Peoples Rights; the African Charter on Democracy, Elections and Governance; the African Union Convention on Preventing and Combating Corruption; and the African Union Youth Charter; among others.
He observed that over the years, a number of African countries have adopted RTI Laws as part of the processes for deepening democratic governance and that in the last six years alone, the number of African countries that have adopted RTI Laws has increased from five to 21 including more than half of West African countries.
Mr. Braimah said: “Surprisingly and quite embarrassingly, Ghana, which is touted as a beacon of democracy in Africa, has failed to have an RTI Law in place despite over a decade of civil society advocacy for the passage of such a fundamental law.”
He insisted that the upcoming WPFD presents a major opportunity for the government of Ghana to showcase Ghana’s democratic ideals to the world, adding that it will be extremely embarrassing for Ghana not to have in place an RTI Law which is one of the cardinal pieces of legislation that advances democracy, human rights, transparent and accountable governance.