Ghana’s Ambassador to the U.S. Dr Barfuor Adjei-Barwuah has assured that President Akufo-Addo is keen on passing the Right To Information (RTI) Bill into law.
He says the president is confident the bill will help deal with corruption in the country and will work tirelessly to make it law.
“The bill could be important in the battle against corruption, the President is in a hurry to set the country right and maybe this is one of the ways to do that” Dr. Adjei-Barwuah said.
He was speaking at a forum on the RTI Bill at the US Embassy in Washington DC – USA organized by communications firm Loud Silence Media.
The forum brought together Ghanaian and international stakeholders to discuss the role of the RTI bill in the development of Ghana. Ghanaians in the diaspora, US-based media practitioners, students, and other members of the public participated in the event.
The RTI Bill, which has been in Parliament for more than a decade without being passed, is expected to give the public access to information held by public institutions and private entities which use state funds.
The President in a speech to mark Ghana’s 61st Independence Day celebration assured he will get the RTI bill laid before parliament for approval before the house goes on break at the end of the week but that is yet to happen.
CEO of Loud Silence Media Kevin Taylor noted passing the RTI Bill into law will increase investments by the international community into Ghana.
“It has been proven based on research that access to information as proposed by the RTI bill will make Ghana even more investor-friendly, bearing in mind that the World Bank and IMF invest less in non-transparent countries.
"Thus the RTI bill will greatly help raise Ghana’s transparency and competitiveness in the global trade, financial, and democratic fronts,” he said.
Mr Taylor added, “information is the fuel for democracy. When citizens are left in the dark about the actions of their society and government they are denied of meaningful participation in the democratic process.
"I feel Ghana has come a long way in growing her young democracy and the passage of the RTI bill can take her further.”
Director of Governmental Affairs Office at the American Bar Association Thomas Susman commended the quality of Ghana’s draft RTI bill and called for its passage into law.
“It will have all the important elements that are being adopted across the world, so it will do an exemplary job of incorporating and allowing the administration and enforcement of that constitutional right [to information],” he noted.
He also called for effective training of the bureaucrats who will manage the information dissemination process.
The forum also discussed the possible dangers of the passage of the RTI bill into law in the face of the increasing use of social media on the Africa continent.
Senior Editor with the Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting Jeffrey Bartholet encouraged the Ghanaian public to be vigilant when it comes to the sort of information they consume.
“Learn how to read news critically even if it’s from a reputable source and say to yourself, ‘how do they know that and what are their sources’, as this helps to split the facts from the spin especially in these times of fake news,” he told the forum.
Kwasi Bright of the Afrikan Post newspaper noted the absence of the RTI law is negatively impacting the work of journalists in the country.
“Because in the absence of information, there is (always) speculation. The passing of this bill will be very important to journalists,” he said.
He also challenged journalists to be cautious with how they manage the information that gets to them when the RTI law is passed.
“Though the RTI bill will make it easier for reporters to get the access to information they need to work, it is their responsibility to guard and protect the info they obtain by being very professional with its dissemination based on their role as conduits between the government and the society,” he noted.
Oral Ofori who is the Founder of TheAfricanDream LLC said the RTI Bill is crucial to the development of the country.
He noted: “the RTI bill will go a long way to enhance the growth of the Ghanaian democratic processes as the country continues to fine-tune its democratic experiment.
"The onus, however, lies on the people to express their desire to see this bill become a law because it will not only benefit members of the press but also potential investors, businesses, students, government institutions, and the national and international public seeking info about Ghana.”