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Journalists unhappy with delay of RTI Bill

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media2Media practitioners in the Volta Region on Monday expressed frustration at the “undue delay” in the passage of the Right to Information (RTI) Bill.

The media practitioners made up of journalists and radio programme hosts said the delay in the passage of the bill by Parliament is affecting the effective role of the media in ensuring good governance.

This was at a day’s forum on RTI organised by Ghana Centre for Democratic Governance (CDD-Ghana) in Ho.

The forum was to present research findings on a study on access to information in government agencies and departments in the extractive industries.

The media practitioners said access to information is crucial in preventing rumour mongering and speculation in the media and urged Parliament and committees working on the bill to speed-up work on it.

They asserted that the absence of RTI law accounts for the country’s slow pace of development and charged government to demonstrate true commitment to the passage of the bill.

“Ghana is growing in age but not developing and this is due to the absence of the RTI,” a Journalist noted.

Mr Jonathan Osei-Owusu, a member of the RTI Coalition said Ghana cannot be the gateway to Africa without RTI.

“Any country that prides (itself) in democracy yet does not have a Right to Information Law is joking because information is the oxygen for democracy,” he stated.

Mr Osei-Owusu explained that it is only transparency and accountability that could help develop the country’s democracy and that is dependent on access to information.

He said he was unhappy about how the Parliamentary Select Committee for Constitutional, Legal and Parliamentary affairs in the last Parliament toured the country to solicit views of the citizenry on RTI but failed to come out with a report.

Mr Osei-Owusu therefore called for a “yardstick” for measuring the performance of Parliamentary Committees.

He said the committees which failed to deliver must be made to refund sitting allowances given them to ensure value for money.

Mr Victor Brobbey, a Senior Fellow, CDD said the study showed that demand for accountability remained low, though “residual fear”, while approach to release of information in public agencies is improving.

He said the study, done from 2011 and 2012 indicated that while public officers were willing to release information related to their routine line of work, they were uncomfortable releasing information that they thought could embarrass their departments or government.

Madam Regina Tetteh of CDD Ghana urged the media to strengthen its advocacy work on the need to pass the RTI Bill into law.

The RTI Bill was drafted in 2002 to provide legal framework that will allow people to exercise their right of access to information held by government agencies in recognition of the people’s entitlement to such information as the legitimate owners.

The Bill has since gone through several reviews with calls from civil society organisations for the speedy passage of the Bill with corrections made to some exemptions.

Source: GNA

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