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Right to Information: Ghana

CHRI works to raise public awareness about the value of right to information. CHRI believes that right to information is fundamental to the realisation of economic and social rights and civil and political rights. Informed participation by all must therefore be guaranteed through increased access to public information. CHRI believes that right to information should be guaranteed by a strong legislation and the process of law making itself must be participatory and informed by the realities of the communities concerned. It was decided that Ghana would be used as a test country for the rest of the continent on the process of building demand for legislation on freedom of information. We believe that involving the public in the process is key for ownership of the law. In Ghana CHRI activities have included:

Ghana Right to Information Coalition

CHRI Africa has spearheaded formation of a coalition on right to information with membership from the National Media Commission, Religious bodies, non-governmental organisations, Ghana Bar Association and journalists. The coalition meets to brainstorm on direction of its advocacy and to exchange information on the issue.

Public awareness seminars

CHRI Africa decided a two-pronged approach was necessary for the successful implementation of the proposed Right to Information Law. Alongside lobbying of government and maintaining a high profile as a pressure group during the legislative process of bringing the law into reality, it was seen as crucial to enlighten people as to what this right meant to them. Therefore a series of regional seminars were held, sponsored by the British Council. Some of the seminars targeted a specific audience such as one held in Accra for religious leaders, and another held for Trades Union Congress members. Following these, there were a series of travelling conferences for the general public in various regions around Ghana. Attendance was good with approximately seventy people at every seminar, with hugely varying backgrounds. The seminars were held in areas accessible to a significant number of the Ghanaian population. In all there has been seminars in 7 out of the 10 geographical regions of Ghana.

As a part of its activities to celebrate International Right to Know Day, the Coalition on the Right to Information, through its Secretariat - CHRI held a public lecture on 29 September 2008 at Accra on "Adopting the Right to Information legislation in Ghana - where are we?"

Critique of draft bill on right to information

CHRI Africa has published a booklet that critiques a draft bill written by the Institute of Economic Affairs, an NGO and provides a list of principles that are internationally accepted for any right to information law. Copies of this have been disseminated to a number of individuals and organisations and the Attorney General's Department.

CHRI was also instrumental in sending comments on the government's own right to information bill in 2002 which it had collated from its various seminars.

Use of Media

CHRI continues to write articles on right to information in newspapers. It has held radio interviews with various radio stations broadcasting in different parts of Ghana and in both English and local languages. Television stations have shown interest in the various conferences, often showing speeches from key speakers such as state ministers. The effect has been tremendous and has helped right to information become a talking point among everyday, ordinary Ghanaians. CHRI Africa will maintain its good relations with the media, as it has proved very beneficial in raising awareness and strengthening its work.

Government planning committee on right to information (2003)

Owing to its sustained commitment to right to information work in Ghana, CHRI was invited as one of the few civil society groups, to be a member on a planning committee set up by the Ministry for Information to strategize on how the government could open up consultations on the right to information bill, which has been approved by Ghana's Cabinet, to the wider public for input that will shape the bill before it is taken before Parliament.

Status of the Right to Information Bill

The draft bill on right to information has been posted on the government portal at www.ghana.gov There is also posted on the portal a Q & A that assists the public to have a quick glimpse of the bill. Additionally the sector ministry responsible for Information has launched a strategic plan that includes serialisation of the bill in a newspaper, distribution of several thousands of booklets containing the Q & A, plus a number of nationwide seminars for the civil service, the private sector and members of the public. The seminars will also involve the Public Records and Archives Administration Department officials whose main responsibility will be to encourage proper records keeping. The objective of the government agenda is to a. Create public awareness about the bill b. sensitise public servants especially about the bill in preparation for implementation of the law and c. create awareness amongst the private sector about the bill and its applicability to private bodies.

Lobbying Parliamentarians

As part of its lobbying strategy CHRI has scheduled a meeting with key Members of Parliament, including members of the Legal and Constitutional Affairs Committee at which will be presented views collated from CHRI's sensitization workshops nationwide; provide information that will assist MPs to debate principal provisions of the Bill ultimately aimed at ensuring that concerns that CHRI has raised about the draft bill will be adequately addressed and incorporated in the law.

Training and workshop