Access to information by the public is a right that has been guaranteed under Article 21(1)(f) of the 1992 Constitution.
The Constitution states under the aforementioned article that: “All persons shall have the right to information, subject to such qualifications and laws as are necessary in a democratic society.”
But, Ghana did not enjoy that right until March 2019, when the Right to Information (RTI) Act was promulgated into law by Parliament, received President assent on May 21, and became effective in January 2020.
Prior to the passage of the law, seekers, especially the media, had barrages of problems with providers like public institutions, since they were not willing to give out information.
We, therefore, held the view that the passage of the RTI law would make the request for information easier, but that was not so. In fact, the notion of getting information in a faster way was what threw information seekers, especially the media, into celebration when the law was passed.
Little did we know that the law was coming with its own caveats, chief among them being the fees to be charged for information given out. The issue with fees has already landed information seekers and givers in court. One of such issues involved the Fourth Estate, a subsidiary of the Media Foundation for West Africa, and the Minerals Commission.
The Commission requested the Fourth Estate to pay a whopping $1,000 before it could release information that was being sought. The Fourth Estate obviously saw the request as unreasonable and proceeded to court to get justice.
Thankfully, we may soon see an end to this issue of fees, since Parliament has now approved the fees to be charged, with regards to access to information.
In accordance with the Fees and Charges (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act, 2022, persons seeking information are expected to pay 0.27 pesewas for every photocopy of A4 size information.
The Executive Secretary of the RTI Commission has already said that the approval of the fees would provide clarity on issues relating to, and we hopes that such would be the case since it would go a long way to ease the pressure on our already crowded courts.
But, if we are to really achieve this, then those at the information giving end, especially our public institutions, should be abreast with this law so that it would be strictly adhered to accordingly.
We are saying this, because even when it comes to the giving out of information, some institutions are still reluctant, because they are not even privy to the provisions of the law, even though the government, civil society organisations, and non-governmental organisations have invested in training people on the provisions of the law.
Ghana is touted as the ‘Beacon of Democracy in Africa’, because we have been able to uphold some tenets of democracy, including peaceful elections and transfer of power from one government to the other over the years.
The Right to Information is also another tenet of democracy we must adhere to, if we still want to maintain our position on the democratic league table.
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