“Pass credible RTI law not denial of info law”: Media practitioners to parliamentarians

Members of the Media Coalition on Right to Information (RTI) Bill have called on Ghana’s Parliament to pass into law a credible RTI law and not denial of information law.

To this end, the group is calling on the peoples’ representatives to remove some clauses in the draft bill which are described by many as problematic to reflect on the aims and objectives for the enactment of the RTI law.

According to members of the coalition who are made up of hosts of programmes, editors, senior and juniors reporters from the various media fraternity have come together to form a coalition to push for the passage of the Right to Information (RTI) Bill which they said was long overdue.

The media practitioners say they are determined to embark on a series of action, including demonstrations, media blackouts, and vigils among others to force the passage of the bill into law.

Speaking at the launch which took place yesterday, the Spokesperson of the Interim Steering Committee of the coalition who also doubles as the Editor of the Finder Newspaper Mr Elvis Darko, threw more light on the seriousness which the media is attaching to the issue of the passage of the Bill this time round.

The formation of coalition he said follows the foot-dragging tactics which the two previous parliaments have employed when it came to the issue of the passage of the RTI Bill.

According to Mr Darko, “the Right to Information is a fundamental human right guaranteed by the 1992 Republican Constitution.”

He further stated that for a constitutional democracy like Ghana’s to thrive, it is important that the citizens are informed. “It is only when those who are to participate in governance are well informed that they can contribute meaningfully,” he said.

On the reluctance of previous parliaments to pass the RTI Bill, he described the RTI as the most abused piece of legislation in the 4th Republic.

“For about two decades, successive governments have failed to ensure the passage of the Right to Information law that will give meaning to this constitutional provision. To describe a draft legislation that has been laid five times in |Parliament since the 2010 as a result of withdrawals or expiration of the tenure, as the most abused piece of draft legislation in the history of the 4th Republican Parliament will not be far from right.”  Mr Darko reiterated.

The Coalition expressed its frustration at the at the attitude of parliament, which, it says, goes counter to its duty to represent the interests of the electorate who voted them into the august House, as far as the passage of the RTI Bill goes, by “representing themselves, their party interests and throwing the the national interest to the dogs.
“Parliament has exhibited clear acts of dishonesty and disrespect to the people they represent, as they have in these instances hidden behind their Standing Orders to dribble the people of Ghana,” he finished to rapturous applause” he said.

Mr Darko warned against the creation of the impression that the passage of the RTI Bill will promote irresponsible journalism as this is simply an act of unfair generalization.
“Ghana has a good number of responsible journalists who have been the reasons for getting the news to the general public constantly and timely and exposing rot by public officials and private persons despite very terrible conditions of service for journalists … and the great dangers we encounter in doing our work,” he added.

 

The coalition has therefore pledged to make the issue of the passage of RTI Bill a regular topic of conversation on the various platforms; engaging regularly with managers and Editors of various national, regional media, including community radio stations, to ensure that the wider population understands the benefits of the RTI regime.

Besides this, it would work with Ghanaian media personnel, home and abroad, to display RTI Passage placards at all functions attended by the Speaker of Parliament, the Majority and Minority Leaders, and the President.

The coalition also promised to track all promises made by public officials on the RTI Bill, and would go as far as naming and shaming them for reneging on their promises.

They have however served notice that their lenses would be fixed on MPs who through their actions and inactions oppose the swift passage of a credible RTI law.

 

As part of their strategy, the will resort strongly to social media, through the hashtag#PassItNowas it is a fact that the top trends on social media in Ghana are mainly campaigns promoted by media houses.

The group also gave tacit support to the hashtag being employed by civil society #PassTheRTIBillNow.
The birth of the coalition he explained is as a result of several interventions by Civil Society Organisations to ensure the passage of the RTI Bill.

The Coalition has successfully mobilized over 120 journalists across the country who have committed to use their respective platforms to heighten awareness on the Bill.

 

 

Story: Franklin ASARE-DONKOH

Writer’s email: franklinadonkor@todaygh.com

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