The National Communication Authority has been ordered by the Human Rights Court 2 Division of the High Court to charge the Media Foundation for West Africa an amount of GH¢1,500 for some information it is requesting from the state agency through the Right to Information (RTI) Act 2019 (Act 989).
With Parliament yet to approve fees for state agencies to charge persons seeking to request information in accordance with the Fees and Charges Act (2009), MFWA went to court to demand a declaration against the NCA’s decision to charged them an amount of GH¢2,000 for information it was seeking on some radio stations in the country.
The MFWA in its suit asked the court to declare GH¢2,000 request as unlawful, unreasonable, unfair, and a “violation of Applicant’s constitutional and fundamental right to access information”.
In the statement of their case, the MFWA argued that fee being charged by the NCA was exorbitant and inimical to the enjoyment of the constitutionally guaranteed Right to Information.
Legal representatives of the NCA on the other hand argued that the information being sought by MFWA was not readily available and that it would require searching to produce.
They also argue that their clients had to rely on available standards to announce a charge since there remains no fees and charges regulation guiding the administration of the RTI law.
The MFWA was in its demands sought the following reliefs from the court:
1. A declaration that the decision and demand by Respondent contained in its letters dated July 29, 2020, and August 20, 2020, complained about are unlawful, unreasonable, unfair, and in violation of Applicant’s constitutional and fundamental right to access information.
2. A declaration that the amount of GH¢2,000 demanded by Respondent from the Applicant in order to generate the information constitutes constructive denial, refusal, failure or neglect, and breach of Applicant’s right to information under Article 21(1) (f) of the 1992 Constitution of Ghana
3. A declaration that the amount demanded is not only unlawful but unconscionably exorbitant in breach of the letter and spirit of Act 989 and Applicant’s fundamental rights to information
4. A declaration that the information requested by the Applicant is not subjected to a charge/fee; or in the alternative,
5. A declaration that if Applicant were liable to a charge/fee, the same ought to be an ascertainable amount to cover the actual cost of reproduction or photocopy of the information sought only.
The court in its ruling on Thursday, June 17, 2021, said the information being requested from the NCA was in the interest if the public and that the legal framework in force governing access to information in the country ought to override general provisions of law based on which state institutions operate.
The court however declined to scrap the GH¢2,000 fees as requested by the MFWA but ordered the NCA to reduce the amount to GH¢1,500.