Media practitioners sensitised on the RTI Law

BY GHANANEWSAGENCY.ORG - Jan 16, 2020 at 1:21am 100

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Public Relations (PR) Practitioners have been urged to disclose information that is not exempt whether proactively or upon request under the Right to Information (RTI) Law.

Exempt information is one that bothers on national security, international relations, law enforcement and public safety, parliamentary privilege, fair trial and contempt of court amongst other.

“Any deliberate effort to withhold or hide information is an offence,” Mr Kojo Pumpuni Asante, Director of Advocacy and Policy Engagement, of the Centre for Democratic Governance (CDD), has said.

Mr Pumpuni said it is to ensure accountability through information sharing as it is the bedrock of democratic accountability saying, it was inconceivable to govern successfully in modern societies without access to information.

He gave the advice at a day’s seminar organized for both PR and Media practitioners in Accra on Wednesday on RTI. It was attended by practitioners from the public and private sectors.

The Director said to fulfill this effectively, there is the need for them to acquire knowledge of the law and how to apply it.

He said the bigger challenge was persuading others within the Metropolitan and District Assemblies and Metropolitan, Municipal and District Assemblies that the role of communication and information has changed and should be respected.

In some cases, a decision to share information can mean the life or death for the person seeking information, thus, to meet the timelines within the Act, the public sector must invest in good record storage and management, this means they must innovate.

“The PR community of practice can make or unmake the RTI and should lead the charge towards a transparent and accountable governance system,” he said.

Mr Pumpuni said information was critical for the citizenry to be able to make a fair assessment whether or not leaders were on track, stating that it was important to focus on the operationalization of the law as democratic governance cannot be successful without access to information.

The right to information, he said, helps to get a good developing administrative procedure that were adaptable to changing context, so that mistakes were not repeated.

The RTI gives provision on accessing information and must precede the necessary limitation.

Mr Kojo Pumpuni Asante, Director of Advocacy and Policy Engagement, said it is very important to understand the guiding principles that underline the RTI Law.

He said understanding the law is vital, hence the need to operationalize the RTI.

Mr Asante said access to information is the bedrock of democratic accountability, adding that democracy and good governance could not be discussed without the Right to Information.

He said information is critical for citizens to be able to make a fair assessment whether or not leaders are on track.

He said it is important to focus on the operationalization of the law because it is inconceivable to govern successfully in modern societies without access to information.

He said in some cases, a decision can mean the life or death of the person seeking information, adding that even with the private sectors, lack of transparency and poor management of information carries serious reputational risk and can affect the bottom line.

The right to information helps to get a good developing administrative procedure that are adaptable to changing context, so that mistakes are not reported.

Mr Asante said in order to discharge these responsibilities, there are some preparations to consider so that this law can be useful in both the public and private sectors.

He said in the public sectors one has an obligation to disclose information that is not exempt and this is done proactively or upon request, any deliberate effort to withhold or hide information is an offence.

Also to meet the timelines within the act, the public sector must invest in good records storage and management and this means one must be innovative.

With the private sector, he said, it was unclear the extent to which a private institution would be deemed to be caught by the Act, stating that the scope of the RTI as it relates to private sector would evolve through subsidiary legislation and case law.

He said all the same, any private sector performing a public function can be deemed to be caught by the law in terms of the information generated relating to that public function.

Participants called for more education on the Act on how and where to access information.