Accra, Ghana
The Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative (CHRI) is an independent non-governmental organisation created to ensure the practical realisation of human rights in the countries of the Commonwealth. We push for an adherence to the Commonwealth's Harare Principles and the United Nation's Universal Declaration of Human Rights. CHRI was established in 1987 after several Commonwealth countries voiced their concern about a lack of focus on Human rights within the Commonwealth organization. CHRI currently has three offices; in Delhi, London and Accra. The Africa office was opened in Accra in 2001 and is at the forefront of the fight to uphold basic human freedoms in the region. We work in three main areas of human rights: Human Rights Advocacy; Access to justice and The Right to Information.

Monday 25 July 2011

People Must be Informed!

The struggle for the return to constitutional rule had at its centre amongst others a craving for the unfettered rights of every individual especially the Ghanaian, access to information as when the need arises.

Democracy in its true sense of the word has come to be defined as the participation of the people in the process of governance.

 However, if practical meaning can ever be given to democracy, it must certainly involve the unreserved right of every citizen to information which would in the final analysis widen the scope of his knowledge so he can contribute effectively towards nation building.

For countless number of years, many people have been gripped by the fear of the unknown as the world keeps changing by the minute before their very eyes.

Social commentators and political activists like Kwesi Pratt Jnr. have hit the roof about the poverty of our people.

In their argument, the inability of our government to harness our resources towards addressing the social and economic difficulties which has plagued the people, the reason we have a situation where people continue to sleep on the streets of Mallam Atta market.

Nonetheless, information on how much revenue is accrued to the state as a result of our share holdings in the various mining companies is never made available or accessible to the public!

It is a healthy development that the bill for right to information has received some attention on the floor of parliament.

However, we need to accentuate that if the underlying principle for the passage of the Bill is to ensure that the public, citizens and non-citizens had access to information then Act 54 section (1) of the constitution which empowers the Attorney General with the ministerial responsibility for the implementation of that act, must be amended.

Although the Attorney General would have to hold information in trust for the people; the bill when passed into law would definitely suffer some restrictions and the right to information might be curtailed.

The argument advanced in support of this position is that, given the constitutional provision which mandates the Attorney-General to also serve as the Minister of Justice, how would he release information which borders on criminality especially when the state is involved?

How would the Attorney-General release information which might eventually require him to prosecute the state or prominent citizens of the government under which he or she might be serving?

It is for these and other reasons that it has been advocated the need for an independent body or entity to be charged with the responsibility for the effective implementation of the bill for the Right to Information if it is ever passed into law.

The right to information must be enjoyed without hindrances and all measures must be put in place to ensure that the thinking and planning that went into the drafting of that bill is never wasted.
Clara Sarpomaa Sabeng
Clara was a former intern with CHRI and is currently a student at the Institue of Journalism in Accra

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