President John Dramani Mahama has expressed his frustration at the delay in the passage of the Freedom to Information Bill.
Although he spoke positively about freedoms Ghanaians were currently enjoying, he said the passage of the Freedom to Information Bill was crucial as it would give legal backing to the people's quest to seek information.
"I believe that it is something that we should complete and make available so that people can have a legal basis for demanding information if there is reluctance to give information," he said.
President Mahama, who is the Co-Chair of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) Advocacy Group of the United Nations (UN), was speaking at the UNESCO's International Programme for the Development of Communication (IPDC) Talks on "Powering the SDGs with access to information," at the UNESCO headquarters In Paris, France yesterday.
"It looks like it is a legislation that has kept so long in Parliament. Cabinet approved it, we presented it to Parliament and I don't know where it is. “
"It has been at the committee level, the committee decided to go round the country to consult on the Freedom on Information Bill. Some say it is too liberal, others say it is too tight and should be made liberal and so Parliament is still working on it. It was submitted during the term of the last President, and it has continued in my term," the President said.
President Mahama spoke on the importance of information and media to sustainable development with a focus on Goal 16 of the 2030 Agenda.
The Paris talks were a prelude to the International Day for Universal Access to Information, which falls on September 28.
The talks were designed to show that public access to information, along with strengthening media institutions that assure such access, is key to achieving the SDGs in their totality.
They were aimed at encouraging member states to consider integrating free, independent and pluralistic media within their overall national plans and policies for implementing SDGs in a creative, accessible and innovative way.
Besides, the talks sought to raise public awareness of the media’s important role in monitoring progress towards the SDGs and in holding governments accountable for their achievement, as well as seek support to strengthen media development and access to information initiatives. They also gave more visibility to the IPDC as the UN’s inter-governmental programme that mobilises international support in order to strengthen the capacities of the mass media to contribute to sustainable development, democracy and good governance.
President Mahama observed that closed societies that suppressed freedom of speech and expression and restricted the media were able to grow in the short term, but the growth was not sustainable.
He said Ghana's growth had been sustainable because it was achieved by consensus.
Mr Mahama said sometimes he wanted some processes to move faster but as a democratic nation, things must go through the laid-down procedures.
"I believe that when people express themselves freely, it unleashes the kind of human creativity that you need to be able to propel the society," he said.
He said the government had the responsibility to ensure that the means for people to express themselves was there.
Speaking about social media, he said, how to handle it was a problem, adding, "it means that everybody becomes a journalist or everybody becomes a media house and it is a risk we have to face up to," he said,
The President later inspected an exhibition on the Bui National Park in Paris.