Parliament to approve Right to Information Bill

Passage of the Right to Information Bill into law could be done during the tenure of Parliament, Mr. Cletus Avoka, Majority Leader in Parliament said in Accra on Monday.

“We have completed our deliberations on the Bill. We hope that between July 1- July 27, we would be able to lay the Bill before the President for his final approval to be passed into law.”

Mr. Avoka was contributing to a debate on the theme: “The Right to Know and the Power to Regulate the Airwaves: The Way Forward,” organised by the Institute Of Democratic Governance (IDEG).

The debate discussed issues and challenges concerning the Right to Information Bill and National Broadcasting Bill.

Participants at the debate were drawn from the Ministries, Departments and Agencies, development partners, academia, media, private sector, civil society organisations and other stakeholders.

Mr. Avoka said Parliament acknowledged the importance of the Right to Information Bill, adding “When the Bill was referred to the Joint Committees, civil society groups stressed the need to sensitise the… public as much as possible. We needed to organize funds and that takes some time”.

He pointed out that the quality of the Bill had to be enriched through stakeholder consultations after being drafted in 2002 and laid before Parliament in February 2010; therefore, the Executive could not be blamed for the delay of passage of the Bill.

“If the Executive formulates and brings a bill to Parliament, it has done its part of the job and now becomes a document of the Legislature,” Mr. Avoka said.

The Majority Leader said “Sometimes when bills come to Parliament, it makes amendments which could prolong their passage into law”.

He urged Civil Society Groups such as “The Coalition on the Right To Information(CRI),” to have a cooperative instead of an antagonistic attitude towards Parliament concerning passage of the Bill.

“Please do not stampede Parliament into passing this Bill. Don’t intimidate us, motivate Parliament to work hard towards ensuring that this Bill becomes law within a very short time,” he added.

Mr. Avoka said it was worth noting that even advanced democracies with experience that dated back 100 of years had difficulties with the Right to Information Bill.

“We are a young democracy. Let us take our time and come out with a law that would have no hitches and would excellently work to serve its purpose.”

Professor Kwame Karikari, Executive Director of Media Foundation for West Africa (MFWA), said the right to information formed the crust of democracy.

He said if the Bill is passed into Law by December 7, the electorate should make it a campaign issue because of its importance.

On the National Broadcasting Bill, Prof. Karikari said, “We need a broadcasting law because of the public’s concern on the extent of abuse on our airwaves.”

He said considering the fact that Ghana was in an election year, “We need this Bill to be passed into law so that a newly elected government would just have to continue with the law,” he said.

The Right to Information Bill, which was drafted 10 years ago and designed in accordance with Article (1) (f) of the 1992 Constitution, gave the Ghanaian public the right to access official information which was held by a government agency.

The Bill which was proposed in 1998, has still not been passed for the past 14 years although the country had changed governments three times.

In a similar manner, the National Broadcasting Bill formulated in 2010 by the Ministry of Information with support from the World Bank has not been passed even though when passed into law, it would regulate Ghana’s broadcasting media, especially in this election year.

Source: GNA

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