Some journalists and government officials attending a forum on journalistic ethics and national security in Accra have been engaged in hot exchanges over the delay in the passage of Right to Information Bill.
At a forum organized by an Accra-based newspaper, the Daily Express, the journalists questioned what they see as government's deliberate feet dragging in passing the law, which will give them and other members of the public greater access to information.
The Editor of the Statesman newspaper, Mr Gabby Asare Otchere- Darko and the Government Spokesperson on Governance, Mr Frank Agyekum were the most vociferous on the issue.
According to Mr. Otchere-Darko government has failed to pass the bill because it fears the law will empower journalists to access sensitive information.
But Mr Agyekum said the only reason why the bill has not been passed is because of the lack of appropriate structures for implementation.
A Private Legal Practitioner, Mr Yoni Kulendi set the tone for the exchanges when he delivered a paper on the topic: “Journalistic Ethics and National Security.”
He said journalists must complement the work of the security agencies since they all seek to promote national interest.
Mr Kulendi said the conflict between them is due to the methods of investigation. According to him, whiles the security agencies are slow in giving information, journalists are eager to put the information out.
He said in as much as journalists have the right to publish any information; they must not endanger the welfare of society.
“Once you run into national security considerations, the duties, the responsibility is on the journalist to embark on a thorough interrogation of the issues and resolve in his own mind that a truthful, honest, accurate, unbiased and ethic based publication will promote national security and that it will help realise the aspirations set out in the Constitution,” he said.
Mr Otchere- Darko said the security agencies refuse to provide information to the public with the excuse that it will pose a threat to national security.
“You have been in power for over six years and when you came to power you promised to bring this bill. What has happened within the last six and seven years? It is basically a failure,” Mr Otchere- Darko noted.
But Mr Agyekum did not take kindly to his comments.
“As it is today, you can walk in and get whatever information you want…when the law becomes operational it becomes difficult because when you come to me and you want an information, I am supposed to give you that information within a time period” as the law states, he said.