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Urgent Call on the Advancement of Citizens' Access to Information in Ghana

34 NGOs call on the government of Ghana to ensure its citizens' right of access to information.

Ghana President elect Nana Akufo-Addo, of the New Patriotic Party, smiles on being declared the winner of the presidential election in Accra, Ghana, Friday, Dec. 9, 2016.
Ghana President elect Nana Akufo-Addo, of the New Patriotic Party, smiles on being declared the winner of the presidential election in Accra, Ghana, Friday, Dec. 9, 2016.

Sunday Alamba / AP

HE Nana Akufo-Addo
President of the Republic of Ghana
Accra

RE: Urgent Call on the Advancement of Citizens' Access to Information in Ghana

Your Excellency,

We, the undersigned freedom of expression advocates, are deeply concerned with the record of the Government of Ghana in violating its obligations and commitments regarding its citizens' right of access to information.

The African Charter on Human and Peoples' Rights, to which Ghana is a state party, requires member states to implement legislative and other measures to promote and protect citizens' right of access to information. Both the Principles of Freedom of Expression in Africa under Article IV and the Model Law on Access to Information for African Union Member states adopted by the African Commission on Human and Peoples' Rights set regional standards on the right to information.

In September 2015, Ghana alongside other members of the United Nations committed to pursue Sustainable Development Goals that require member states to adopt and implement access to information laws. Yet a recent study by the Africa Freedom of Information Centre (AFIC), “State of the Right to Information in Africa”, finds Ghana has not progressed on this target. This lack of specific legislation on access to information creates a void in the implementation and enforcement of the constitution's guarantee.

AFIC's study also finds that Ghana is in violation of Article 62 of the African Charter on Human and Peoples' Rights in respect to state reporting. In fact, at the time the study was published, the Government of Ghana had missed 9 reporting periods.

Your Excellency, your government was elected on the promise of promoting transparency and accountability. New legislation is needed to promote active disclosure of certain basic information by public institutions to enhance citizens' participation in governance and to empower citizens to fully and effectively take part in the fight against corruption.

We must emphasize that legislation alone will not be enough: regular sensitization programmes for public officials are necessary to engender a change of attitude and mindset of public servants towards citizens' access to information and promote a culture of openness within the public institutions.

We therefore call upon your government to chart a new course by urgently:

• Ratifying the African Charter on Values and Principles of Public Service and Administration, and ensuring compliance with the reporting obligations before the ACHPR;
• Adopting and effectively implementing access to information legislation, inspired by international and regional standards as well as the AU Model Law, to ensure the fundamental legal right of access to information by all citizens;
• Meeting the obligations to state reporting under Article 62 of the African Charter on Human and Peoples' Rights;
• Conducting right to information training programs for public officials, especially those at local levels, to enable public servants to appreciate their obligation in promoting citizens' right to information;
• Undertaking institutional reforms to ensure effective record keeping and management systems in public institutions; and
• Empowering the citizens of Ghana to exercise their civil and political rights in order to effectively demand accountability from their leaders.

We look forward to your response.

Signed,

Africa Freedom of Information Centre (AFIC)
Adil Soz - International Foundation for Protection of Freedom of Speech
Afghanistan Journalists Center (AFJC)
Americans for Democracy & Human Rights in Bahrain (ADHRB)
ARTICLE 19
Association for Media Development in South Sudan (AMDISS)
Bytes for All (B4A)
Cambodian Center for Human Rights (CCHR)
Canadian Journalists for Free Expression
Cartoonists Rights Network International (CRNI)
Center for Media Freedom and Responsibility (CMFR)
Center for Media Studies & Peace Building (CEMESP)
Freedom Forum
Globe International Center
Human Rights Network for Journalists - Uganda (HRNJ-Uganda)
Independent Journalism Center - Moldova
International Press Centre (IPC)
Media, Entertainment and Arts Alliance
Media Foundation for West Africa (MFWA)
Media Institute of Southern Africa (MISA)
Media Watch
National Union of Somali Journalists (NUSOJ)
Pacific Islands News Association
Pakistan Press Foundation
PEN American Center
Reporters Without Borders (RSF)
Vigilance for Democracy and the Civic State
World Association of Community Radio Broadcasters (AMARC)

Collectif 24
Comite des droits de L'Homme et Developpement (CODHOD)
Centre for Human Rights & Rehabilitation (CHRR)
Ghanian PEN
South African History Archive (SAHA)
Namibian Media Trust

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