Ghana Media Commission Urges Passage of Access Bill

10 December 2010

Ghana’s National Media Commission has called for approval of the Right to Information Bill, the Broadcasting Bill and the Defamation Bill.

“Of these, it has been the Right to Information Bill that has received, and for good reasons too, the greatest publicity,” the commission noted, saying that “it is taking far too long to pass the Right to Information Bill into law so as to provide the detailed legal mechanism for our people to exercise this fundamental right that Article 21(1) (f) guarantees to our people.”

A Nov. 30 statement from the commission, reprinted in Business Ghana, continued,  “(Almost) 20 years after the coming into effect of the Constitution, there can be no justification for further delay in passing into law the Right to Information Bill, which has currently gone through the first reading in Parliament.” (See previous Freedominfo.org report.)

“We accordingly call on Parliament, to carry out the planned and necessary public consultations with the people on the contents of the Bill so that the Bill is enriched with public input and can be passed into law before the end of 2011, ahead of the 2012 general election. This is particularly so also, as oil production in commercial quantities is soon to commence.”

Separately, a person following the bill in Ghana told Freedominfo.org that the joint committee handling the bill is planning on conducting the nationwide consultation in mid-January.

Suggestions Made to Improve Bill

The media commission said the bill requires “further revision.”

The commission called “for an Independent Information Commission that will (1) ensure compliance with provisions of the Bill when passed into law; (2) carry out mass public education and training of information officers, develop guidelines and modules for the effective operation of the law; and (3) that will serve as a body to which appeals against refusal of applications can be made by the public.”

The commission urged Parliament “to look critically at the exemption clauses to ensure that all exemptions are reasonably necessary, that they are based on a harm’s test and are narrowly formulated to protect a legitimate public interest.”

Also, the time-lines for disclosure of information requested should be shorter and fees should be “the barest minimum required for the reproduction of the information.”

“There is equally the need to extend the coverage of the law to private corporations that engage in the provision of public services or are funded by the public purse or whose activities directly impinge on the rights of individuals,” the commission said.

“Finally, the National Media Commission calls on Government to begin the urgent task of re-training our public institutions in the science of record keeping process and information management and also equipping them with the necessary infrastructure to carry out this vital task. For without an effective and efficient system of record keeping and information management in the public service, a right to information law will prove ineffective and ineffectual.”

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