31 October 2018

Ghana: RTI Bill Campaigners Denied Access to Parliament

Photo: ReadyElements/Pixabay
Newspaper, press, media.

MEMBERS of the Media Coalition pushing for the passage of the Right to Information (RTI) Bill were yesterday prevented from accessing Parliament when they took their advocacy to the legislature.

Numbering about 30, the coalition members were stopped at the two entrances of Parliament by a joint Police and Parliamentary security because they did not have permission of the House to be there as a group.

To ensure no coalition member slipped through the security detail, security was heightened as vehicles entering Parliament were screened to disembark any member who wore a t-shirt with the inscription "Pass The RTI Now."

The members, some of whom were parliamentary correspondents, were not welcomed when they changed into their "Pass The RTI Now" embossed t-shirts.

The journalists were also stopped from entering the press section of the public gallery of Parliament.

Speaking in an interview with the Ghanaian Times after their ordeal, Clement Akoloh, a steering committee member of the Media Coalition, said the treatment meted out to them was a betrayal of democracy.

According to Mr Akoloh, their presence at Parliament was to remind the lawmakers of the expectations of Ghanaians with regards to the passage of the bill.

"We only came here to observe to see the status of the RTI on the agenda of Parliament for this meeting.

"What happened today is a betrayal of the trust in the legislature. We thought that as journalists, we were all on the same page with our lawmakers to have a freedom of information regime as provided by the 1992 Constitution," Mr Akoloh stated.

But Acting Director, Public Affairs of Parliament, Ms Kate Addo, said the coalition failed to follow laid down procedure in extending their advocacy to Parliament.

She explained in an interview with the Ghanaian Times that "Parliament is a house of processes and proceedings" and that the coalition should have written officially to Parliament to inform it of its intended advocacy.

"Parliament doesn't encourage placards and t-shirts. So when you are in a group and dressed in t-shirt, it is deemed protests but Parliament doesn't entertain protests [in the chamber]," Ms Addo said.

This notwithstanding, she said as proceedings were ongoing yesterday, clearance was being sought to give the stranded coalition members access to facilitate the facility as a group and same has been granted.

"We have agreed with the coalition members that they would be allowed to come and observe proceedings in the House on November 6," Ms Addo revealed.

Meanwhile, Majority Leader, Osei Kyei-Mensah-Bonsu, has assured that the bill would be passed before the House adjourned for the Christmas.

Speaking on the floor of the House yesterday, Member of Parliament for Suame said the House was committed to the passage of the bill, which was first laid in Parliament in February 2010.

After the expiration of the last Parliament, the bill, which was drafted in 1998, was re-laid during last meeting.

As advertised in the Order Paper, the schedule of the House yesterday, there were 72 proposed amendments left to be considered by the House.

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