Tuesday March 26, 2019 will be engraved in history as the day Ghana finally passed its Right to Information Bill into law. The bill which has been on the drawing board 20 years has been touted as the panacea for not only a free press, which Ghana is reputed for, but that it would lead to accessing of important information that is necessary for transparency, accountability and deepening of the country’s democratic culture.
The media and civil society organisations have been in the forefront calling for the passing of the bill into law. But the country’s Parliaments at any time didn’t show enthusiasm in passing it. They dragged on for all these years – in spite of promises by Presidents at any given time to pass it. Indeed, candidates in each election cycle promised to pass the bill into law when elected, but renege soon after they are elected.
Even though the Bill was drafted in 1999 and reviewed three times, it was presented to Parliament in 2010. Different reasons were given by different Parliaments of the Fourth Republic for not passing the Bill into law.
But now that it has been passed into law, Ghanaians and the rest of the world that watched keenly as the back and forth over the bill went on in the country, await the day when the President would give it assent to make it functional.
While, there is euphoria and excitement over the passing of the Bill into law, there is also apprehension and suspicion that the law even when finally made functional, is not likely to be enforced because, public office holders or politicians are not particularly enthused about giving out important and relevant information.
There are concerns that just as Nigeria and Liberia both have passed right to information laws that are dysfunctional, Ghana is likely to be caught in the same situation, however, until the law is finally activated and put to test, that fear for now only remains imaginary.
By Emmanuel K. Dogbevi