Ghana’s President Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo on Tuesday, May 21, 2019, signed into law the Right To Information, RTI, Act. This came about two months after the parliament passed it after several years of delay.
The Act is primarily meant to allow citizens access to information by public offices as a means to holding the government accountable.
The president in an address said he was happy that the feat had been achieved under his watch and congratulated the parliament for their commitment to the bill.
“I want to thank the seventh parliament for its courage, sense of responsibility, and commitment to good governance in passing this significant piece of legislation,” he said.
“The purposes of the act as set out in its preamble is to provide for the implementation of the constitutional right to information held by any public institution and to foster a culture of transparency and accountability in public affairs,” the president stressed.
The right to information is enshrined in Ghana’s 1992 Constitution but, for many years, the country had struggled to pass the RTI law. The Institute of Economic Affairs (IEA) drafted an RTI Bill for Ghana as far back as 1999.
Despite this early start, Ghana was unable to adopt an RTI Law until recently. In March 2018, the Right to Information Bill, 2018 (2018 Bill or Bill) was placed before Parliament.
Prior to this, it had been the subject of a series of protests, especially from the media and civil society groups. They accused lawmakers of deliberately delaying the passage of the law because of their own selfish interests.
On their part, the lawmakers had argued that the bill needed fine-tuning in areas bordering on national security.
Journalists in Ghana largely believe that the passage of the bill into law will make their work easier, especially in the area of accessing official government data.
RTI and Misinformation
The spread of misinformation is globally widespread. The effect of social media has broadened the sources of information. Therefore, in recent years, fact-checking has become more prevalent in journalism. This is reflected in the increasing number of fact-checking organizations being established both locally and internationally, such as Dubawa, Africa Check, and other members of the International Fact-Checking Network.
In order to effectively fact-check claims and verify information, journalists in Ghana will sometimes have to rely on the new RTI law to look for information to support their facts. It is, therefore, imperative for them to be familiar with the law.
Here are Five Key Facts You Need to Know About Your Right to Information, under the RTI Law in Ghana.
- Know your Right to Access Information
It is the responsibility of the government to make available general information on governance and any person applying for information may do so without giving a reason, according to the 1992 Constitution of the Republic of Ghana. A person is at liberty to apply for information without giving a reason for the application. There are, however, exceptions to this.
“Where an applicant requests that the application be treated as urgent, the applicant shall state the reason for the urgency,” reads Act 1 subsection 4 of the RTI Law.
- Know Who to Contact within the Organisation
Before requesting information from a department or ministry, it helps to know exactly who you must consult to receive the information you request. For many institutions, the data you need will come from an information officer. When applying, request for the information officer’s name, position, and contact information indicating “the form and manner of access required and state the capacity of the applicant to the satisfaction of the information officer to whom the application is made.” reads Section 19 clause 1 (c) and (d) of the RTI Law
- Know the Time Limits
An information officer has 14 days to determine the status of your application. If your request has been denied, you are entitled to appeal the decision under sections 31-39 of the RTI Law. The information officer’s immediate supervisor will review the appeal, known as an “internal review.” If access to the information is still denied, you are legally entitled to request for an RTI Commission, a body that will be established to promote, monitor, protect and enforce your right to information.
- Know What You Do Not Have Access to
The following information is exempt from public access:
- Information submitted or prepared for submission to the President or the Vice President
- Information submitted or prepared for submission to Cabinet
- Information whose disclosure can reasonably disrupt, endanger, impede, or interfere with law enforcement and public safety
- Information whose disclosure can reasonably affect the security of the state
- Information whose disclosure can reasonably affect international relations
- Economic information and any other interests prior to official publication
- Economic information of third parties
- Information whose disclosure can reasonably infringe on Parliamentary privilege, prejudice fair trial, and constitute contempt of court
- Privileged information
- Information on personal matters/Personal Information
- Know When to Pay – and When Not to Pay
Any applicant requesting information must pay a fee approved by Parliament in accordance with the Fees and Charges Act of 2009. If the information needed is in another language, another fee can be imposed. No fees or charges should be payable for the following:
- Reproduction of personal information of the applicant;
- Reproduction of personal information of a person on whose behalf an application is made;
- Reproduction of information that is in the public interest;
- Information that should have been provided within the stipulated time under this Act;
- Information to an applicant who is indigent;
- Information to a person with a disability;
- Time spent by an information officer or information reviewing
- Officer in charge of reviewing the information requested;
- Time spent by an information officer or information reviewing officer in examining whether the information requested is exempt information
- Time or preparing the information for which access is to be provided.
Right to Information access for the Ministry of Aviation is available here: Ministry of Aviation Right-to-information. The Ministry of Finance and Economic Planning RTI request form is available here MoFEP RTI form as well as RTI- Ghana PDF.
It is recognizably important for journalists and fact-checkers to familiarize themselves with the RTI law to be able to use it effectively to enhance fact-checking.
The Researcher produced this Media Literacy Article per the 2021 Kwame Karikari Fact-checking Fellowship in partnership with ADARS FM to facilitate the ethos of truth in journalism and enhance media literacy in the country.