The Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative (CHRI), Africa Office, on Saturday joined the rest of the world to celebrate the Right to Know Day with a call on Government to pass the Right to Information (RTI) Bill.
“Walk the talk and give meaning to Ghanaians’ right to know by passing an effective and efficient RTI Law. Citizens have the right to know things that have a direct impact on their lives,” CHRI said in a statement.
The statement, signed by Ms Mina Mensah, CHRI Africa Regional Co-ordinator, and copied to the Ghana News Agency, said the Right to Information was a fundamental human right recognised by various international and regional legal instruments.
Ghana’s Constitution in Article 21 (1) (f) recognises this fundamental right for all persons and yet no specific legislation had been passed to guide it, the statement said.
The International Right to Know Day is a day observed globally by human rights activists and civil society organisations every September 28 to raise awareness on the individual’s right to access government held information.
Even though Ghana prides itself as a beacon of hope in democratic governance in Africa, it lacked a legal framework that would underpin two basic tenets of democracy: accountability and transparency - an effective RTI law, the statement said.
“The lack of RTI law places a dent on the governance system of this country,” it said.
Ghana has signed unto the Open Government Partnership (OGP), an international initiative that seeks to secure concrete commitments from governments to promote transparency, enhance citizen’s participation, promote accountability and adopt new technologies to enhance good governance.
This, therefore, makes it critical for Ghana to have in a place a Right to Information law that would meet the OGP standard.
The CHRI said; “Elected officials and public officers who are supposed to act in our best interest have taken the good people of this country for a ride for far too long and enough is enough.
“It is an undeniable truth that information is power and power is access to information. This has clearly come to the fore with current happenings in this country, particularly in relation to the judgement debts saga and how lack of information is costing the Ghanaian tax payer money we cannot afford to lose”.
The CHRI said access to information strengthened democracy, good governance, transparency, accountability, economic growth and development, poverty reduction, the fight against corruption and prevented abuse of power.
The statement said the success of any democratic regime lay in the creation of an environment that ensured that people could freely determine their political, economic, social and cultural systems through active participation in all aspects of decision-making that affected their lives.
As the world marks International Right to Know Day, “the good people of Ghana have the right to know. They cannot know without an effective law in place,” the statement said.
The CHRI, therefore, called on President John Dramani Mahama to ensure the fulfillment of promises he had made on public platforms regarding the RTI Bill.
“We call on our elected representatives in Parliament to act in the best interest of the electorate to whom they are accountable, to amend the bill when it is laid before them and pass an effective RTI Bill into law.
“We call on the good people of Ghana to rise up and demand a legal framework that will enable them to enjoy their human and constitutionally guaranteed right to access information,” the statement said.
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