Ghana: Implementation of RTI Must Take Off Smoothly

Ghana has become one of the world's 125th countries across the world with Right to Information (RTI) law.

Although the law was passed last year, its implementation, being spearheaded by the Ministry of Information, took off this year.

The country has arrived at this point largely because of a long campaign by civil society to ensure passage and adoption of the RTI law.

It is crucially important to point however that, the passage of an Act is just the first step in a change in societal and administrative culture that the right of access to information is going to bring.

The good news though is that, Ghana's RTI law has been hailed as generally solid as compared to similar laws around the world, but there are some particular issues to which attention must be paid in preparing for and in implementing the act.

The first is that a huge effort will be needed to educate both public officials and the general public on their respective obligations and rights under the act.

Experience from elsewhere has shown that until applications are submitted for information, public bodies do not prepare well for the implementation of the right to information laws.

So, encouraging citizens to exercise their right to request information should be a priority from now.

More importantly, the Minister of Information who is mandated to lead the implementation has a huge responsibility to promote the law with the support and cooperation from civil society to get the work done.

Indeed, journalists can also play a role here by writing about the new right and how to exercise it, therefore supporting the Information Minister in its work to educate the public.

The Ghanaian Times has no doubt that there would be some challenges in the implementation of the law. For example, how officials would handle applications to enable applicants to access information in accordance with the law.

Other challenges may come but we expect that constant public education for both members of the public and government officials would help resolve some of the difficulties.

It must be noted that right of access to information is now recognised as a fundamental right that should apply to all information held by all bodies and has the backing of both UN Human Rights Committee and the European Court of Human Rights.

Given global trends, with increased recognition of the right of access to information and the movement towards open government, it is the hope of the Ghanaian Times that the implementation would be done in a manner that would put Ghana on the road towards transparency and social accountability.

We are no doubt aware that there would be teething troubles as well as resistance from officials but we are confident that with government supports, we shall overcome the challenges and hopefully roll out the RTI for the benefit of all the citizenry.

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