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25.10.2005 General News

Don't misuse Right to Information

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Accra, Oct. 25, GNA - Mr Wilson Kusi-Atansah, Chairman of the Media Commission, on Tuesday cautioned a section of the media not to descend into further irresponsibility when the Right to Information Law is passed.

Speaking at a three-day workshop on the media, Mr Kusi-Atansah warned that the media would be impeding the country's development and put the functioning of the law into jeopardy as well as hamper democratic governance if opportunities to be provided by the Law were misused.

The World Bank Institute and the Ghana Journalists Association are organising the seminar on the theme: "Media, Information Access, Governance and Development: The Ghana Context."

Participants are drawn from the media, non-governmental organisations and governance institutions, among other organisations. Mr Kusi-Atansah said poor management of information and inability of media personnel to crosscheck material given to them were inhibiting people from making available information that would enhance their work. Besides, the failure of the media to sustain the confidence and trust also made people in responsible positions unwilling to release sensitive information.

This, he said, had led to a situation where a section of the press had adopted subtle and sometimes, criminal news gathering methods. Mr Kusi-Atansah said the NMC had since January 2005 received 36 complaints, most of them bordering on the inability of media personnel to crosscheck their information before publication.

He said although the country needed a free and independent press to improve governance and transparency, freedom could only be guaranteed through professional responsibility.

"What I am driving at is the fact that even though the Constitution provides the environment to enable the press to thrive to improve governance and transparency, this country has laws which everyone, the press inclusive, must be conscious of," Mr Kusi-Atansah said. Mr Dan Botwe, Minister of Information, asked media practitioners to crosscheck their facts before publication, saying that false stories could undermine the foundations of democracy.

He said the Government had shown its commitment to improve access to information and transparency by repealing the Criminal Libel Law and was bent on the passage of the Right to Information Bill to enhance accountability.

The Minister pledged the readiness of the Ministry to help any journalist having difficulty in accessing information on particular issues.

Mr Bright Blewu, General Secretary of the GJA, said although the repeal of the Criminal Libel Law had provided more space for information flow, media practitioners had not demonstrated the fair play and circumspection required to build confidence in the media. He asked the media to make the provision of authentic and truthful information the cornerstone of their work to enable the public to repose the necessary confidence in them.