Right to Information
“Freedom of information is a fundamental human right and is the touchstone to which the UN is consecrated.” – United Nations General Assembly, 1946
The Right to Information Bill was drafted in 2002 by the attorney general and has since gone through several changes through collaboration with the Coalition on the Right to Information. The cabinet has most recently revised the Bill that is currently in parliament. Although the Right to Information Bill has yet to be passed, there is clear evidence in both national and international documents that the RTI Bill is essential to ensure that all human rights are met adequately. The Ghanaian Constitution states, in Article 21 under the General Fundamental Freedoms section, that
(1) All persons shall have the right to –
(a) freedom of speech and expression, which shall include freedom of the press and other media
Furthermore, Chapter 12 of the constitution entitled, Freedom and Independence of the Media, outlines Ghanaian’s rights regarding media expression. Various articles of this chapter clearly explain these rights.
Article 162, Freedom and Responsibility of Media
(1) Freedom and independence of the media are hereby guaranteed.
(2) Subject to this Constitution and any other law not inconsistent with this Constitution, there shall be no censorship in Ghana.
(3) There shall be no impediments to the establishment of private press or media; and in particular, there shall be no law requiring any person to obtain a license as a prerequisite to the establishment or operation of a newspaper, journal or other media for mass communication or information.
(4) Editors and publishers of newspapers and other institutions of the mass media shall not be subject to control or interference by Government, not shall they be penalized or harassed for their editorial opinions and views, or the content of their publications.
(5) All agencies of the mass media shall, at all times, be free to uphold the principles, provisions and objectives of this Constitution, and shall uphold the responsibility and accountability of the Government to the people of Ghana.
(6) Any medium for the dissemination of information to the public which publishes a statement about or against any person shall be obliged to publish a rejoinder, if any, from the person in respect of whom the publication was made.
Article 163, Responsibility of State Owned Media
All state-owned media shall afford fair opportunities and facilities for the presentation of divergent views and dissenting opinions.
Article 167, Functions of the Commission (National Media Commission)
The functions of the National Media Commission are-
(a) to promote and ensure the freedom and independence of the media for mass communication or information;
(b) to insulate the state-owned media from governmental control;
(c) to make regulations by constitutional instrument for the registration of newspapers and other publications, except that the regulations shall not provide for the exercise of any direction or control over the professional functions of a person engaged in the production of newspapers or other means of mass communication
The African Charter of Human Rights also addresses the issue of access to information. In Article 9, it states that;
(1) Every individual shall have the right to receive information: and 2) Every individual shall have the right to express and disseminate his opinions within the law.
And finally, the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, further proves the importance of the RTI Bill.
(2) Everyone shall have the right to freedom of expression; this right shall include freedom to seek, receive and impart information and ideas of all kinds, regardless of frontiers, either orally, in writing or in print, in the form of art, or through any other media of his choice.
(3) The exercise of the rights provided for in paragraph 2 of this article carries with it special duties and responsibilities. It may therefore be subject to certain restrictions, but these shall only be such as are provided by law and are necessary:
(a) For respect of the rights or reputations of others;
(b) For the protection of national security or of public order, or of public health or morals.
Right to Information Campaign
The Right to Information campaign has been an integral part of CHRI Africa’s development. As the secretariat of the Coalition on the Right to Information, CHRI understands that the right to information is fundamental to the process of democracy and is working tirelessly to achieve this goal. While the RTI initiative began in 2001 with the opening of the CHRI Africa branch, it received a sizeable grant in 2007 from the Open Society Initiative for West Africa (OSIWA) as the secretariat of the Coalition on the Right to Information Ghana which allowed it to grow into a stronger branch of CHRI Africa. Since then, CHRI has been very busy in its fight to promote the freedom of information in Ghana, and Africa as a whole. Some of the highlights of success include:
02-27/28-2007, Accra: CHRI hosted an Interim Steering Committee of African Freedom of Information Centre Meeting
03-22/23-2007, Accra: RTI Coalition Workshop organized by CHRI
07-30/31-2007, Accra: African Regional Conference on Freedom of Information hosted by the CHRI Africa Office
09-28-2007, Accra: Coalition on RTI in Ghana members met with Justice V.C.R.A.C. Crabbe (advisor on RTI Bill) to, International Right to Know Day
06-17-2008, Accra: CHRI members met with the Office of the President
06-19/20-2008, Accra: National Advocacy Training Conference on Freedom of Information
07-19-2008, Accra: Liaison Meeting with Parliamentarians
09-28-2008, All 10 regions of Ghana: Launch of RTI Regional Campaign, International Right to know Day
10-30/31-2008, Cape Coast & Takoradi: The Right to Information Advocacy Strategy Workshops
01-2009, Accra: People’s Access to Information: West Africa Regional Workshop
04-29-2009, Accra: Roundtable Discussion on the Right to Information
01-27-2010, Accra: Thousand Man Public March On the Right to Information in Ghana organized by CHRI
02-4-2010, Accra: Right to Information Coalition Meeting with the World Bank
02-5-2010, Accra: RTI Bill presented on the floor of Parliament
02-7/8/9-2010, Accra: The Coalition of RTI participated in this year’s Africa Regional Conference on Freedom of Access to Information, organized by the Carter Center, USA.
02-16-2010, Accra: Press Conference on the Right to Information Bill in regards to the constitutional misstep in presenting the Bill to Parliament organized by the Coalition on the Right to Information.
03-25-2010, Accra: In house seminar for members of the Coalition on RTI
09-14-2010, Accra: Video Conference at the World Bank Centre: “Getting Ready for the Implementation of FOI” with representatives from Liberia, Sierra Leone, Mexico and the U.S attended, by members of CHRI.
In 2010, a number of advocacy materials have been produced and distributed including: 1500 flyers on RTI; 1500 Stickers; 1700 T-Shirts; 1000 Bandanas. These were largely distributed during the march in January; and stickers and flyers have been distributed to MPs, taxi drivers, regional coalitions, public transport operators etc. The Secretariat has also produced an abridged version of the Coalition’s memorandum as well as a fact sheet on the same.
CHRI works to raise public awareness about the value of the right to information. It collaborates with community based groups, catalyses the development of networks of concerned civil society organizations and seeks out the specific information needs of the people and communicates them to policy makers in various ways. CHRI has also played a key role in the endorsement of the Right to Information Bill in Ghana.
The Bill has been in parliament since February of this year and is awaiting approval. The main challenge at the moment is the lack of resources to complete an investigation in the regional capitals by the committee on RTI about the public’s opinion of the RTI Bill. This investigation has been requested by Parliament and must be completed in order to pass the Bill. Furthermore, Parliament is not meeting until October, which further delays the opportunity for the Bill to be presented in front of the full house.