Non-Ghanaians, citizens and journalists can apply for information at public and private offices that undertake public functions or are funded by the public purse under the Right to Information (RTI) Law.
The RTI Law, which allows members of the public to access information from the aforementioned offices, offers everybody the right to request for an information through documentation without being interrogated on what he or she needs the information for.
Mr. Akoto Ampaw, a lawyer, made this known on Wednesday at a forum organised by the Media Foundation for West Africa (MFWA) in Accra to enlighten the Metropolitan, Municipal and District Chief Executives (MMDCEs) on the RTI Law, which comes into effect from January 7, 2020.
He said MMDCEs worked in the name of the citizenry or public; hence were mandated to release all information upon request.
He however, explained that, there were exemptions that give information officers in the offices the right to deny applicants some information, such as seeking information that could undermine a legitimate public or private interest and create problems for a third party.
The Information Officers, according to RTI Law, have a period of 14 days to take a decision on whether to release an information to applicants or not and 48 hours to release information to applicants who need it to protect lives and liberty.
Mr. Ampaw said the law stipulated the “Burden of Proof,” a requirement that charged an Information Officer in extreme cases to explain to an applicant why information could not be given out and equally charged the applicant, who needed information urgently to protect lives or liberty, to produce evidence on why the information was urgently needed.
He stated that a willful disclosure of exempt information, according to “Article 82(2) of the Law is an offence penalty on conviction and attracts a fine of not less than 250 penalty points, more than 500 penalty points or a term of imprisonment of not less than six months or more than three years or both.
He called on MMDCEs to give out information easily to citizens to enable them to appreciate what government institutions were doing to secure their welfare, adding that, it was at the local levels that the RTI Law could be most appreciated as members of the public had direct relationship with local government authorities.
Mr Zakaria Tanko Musah, lawyer and lecturer at the Ghana Institute of Journalism, urged MMDCES and other public officials not to be intimidated by the RTI Law with regard to the media, by seeing it as a tool handed over to them to interrupt the work of public officials.
He said the RTI Law rather placed a burden on journalists as they would be deterred from disseminating inaccurate information with an excuse that they could not get access to clarity or information from public officials.
Mr Sulemana Braimah, the Executive Director of the MFWA, said the Foundation was preparing to engage more stakeholders including; community level radio stations to help people to understand the RTI Law in their local languages.
He said sensitization forums would also be organised to educate the media on their rights and limitations to the Information Law.