Empowering Ghana: RTI Commission’s Outreach Ensures Nationwide Awareness of Act 989

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By Alex Asare, Sandra Tetteh & Nancy Oye Tanihu

The Right To Information Commission is committed to making Act 989 accessible to everyone in Ghana in its bid to help make public administration transparent and accountable. In that respect, it will continue its outreach to make sure everyone in Ghana knows about how to access it.

Stephen Owusu, Head of Legal, Governance, Regulatory and Research at the Right to Information Commission said this at the third MediaTalk held this semester at the African University College of Communications (AUCC) Auditorium in Adabraka, yesterday.

He was speaking to communication students on ‘The RTI Law: Implications, Provisions and Limitations’ and the pivotal role it plays in ensuring transparency and accountability in government operations.

Mr. Owusu underscored the primary objectives of the RTI, emphasizing its role in fostering transparency, accountability, and citizen empowerment. He highlighted how the right serves as a cornerstone for a well-informed public thus ensuring more meaningful engagement in good governance.

While he illustrated his points using real-life cases where the implementation of the RTI Law led to uncovering vital information and holding authorities accountable, he emphasized on the need for Ghanaians to know about the provisions and how to use them effectively.

“Since its three-year existence, the [RTI] Commission has engaged stakeholders in every capital in all the 16 regions of the country to sensitize and deepen education around the RTI law. And we’ve toured other higher learning Institutions like the University of Ghana, KNUST, and the rest,” Mr. Owusu said, after demonstrating a keen understanding of the workings of the Right to Information (RTI) law in Ghana.

He stressed the significance of ensuring citizens’ unimpeded access to information. He said it is important that everyone has access to the right because it empowers individuals to make informed decisions, participate in governance, and hold public officials accountable.

“The RTI bill is accessible to everyone in the country, whether they are Ghanaian or not. Even minors, through an adult guardian, may access it…The application process…is straightforward. Regardless of nationality or age, individuals have the right to access information by submitting a written request, indicating the manner of access, and signed by the applicant,” he explained.

Mr. Owusu however explained that not every information can be divulged due to certain restrictions provided in the law, such as privacy issues, issues of national security, and parliamentary privileges.

“There are certain exemptions to protect certain information in the public interest, along with the appeal process. If applicants remain unsatisfied, they are empowered to approach the RTI Commission for further intervention.”

Mr. Owusu explained the necessity of balancing transparency with legitimate concerns, safeguarding national security, individual privacy, and other protected interests.

He reminded students that access to information is a right and the information is free, but costs associated with it are there to cover the processing of the information such as photocopying or scanning of the requested information.

“In other words, you pay for reproduction of the information you request, regardless of one’s background,” he said.

The event provided an insightful platform for discussions on essential aspects of the law and its potential impact on transparency and accountability in the country. The presentation was informative and educative and interactive, giving participants the opportunity to ask questions for clarity.

Attendees at the event left with a deeper understanding of the multifaceted dimensions of the Right to Information law, thanks to Stephen Owusu’s insightful discourse. The presentation served as a catalyst for further discussions on how to strengthen and uphold this fundamental right in the African context.

“I feel enlightened by the presentation,” Richard, a L400 communication student said. “The idea of both transparency and corruption embedded in the RTI law is very necessary for good governance.”

Freeman, a Laboratory Scientist student of the Accra Technical University (ATU), on the other hand believes the law is just a façade.

“I see it as lame, just like the private members’ anti-LGBTQ+ bill which the president might assent; its effectiveness [is] lame. I feel the RTI bill should be [more of] an accountability trailblazer for corruption in Ghana.”

MediaTalk is an academic forum on media organized by the Ama Ata Aidoo Centre for Creative Writing at AUCC. This semester, other MediaTalk events held are on ‘Vital Skills of digital news gathering and verification’ by Kwaku Krobea Asante, Team Lead, Fact-Check Ghana, and ‘Data Journalism and Visualization’ by Seth J. Bokpe, The Fourth Estate.

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