Friday April 19, 2024

Operationalisation of RTI laws still a far cry

By Our Correspondent
September 30, 2018

Islamabad : The Coalition on Right to Information conferred RTI Champions Awards 2018 on Riaz Khan Daudzai and Zohaib Hassan in the Journalist and Citizen and Best Performing PIO categories respectively, at an award ceremony held here Friday.

The ceremony coincided with an open discussion on International Right to Know Day, where senior government officials, present and former information commissioners, public information officers, investigative journalists, common citizens and CSOs brushed shoulders and and reflected on the significance of the day.

Senator Ferhat Ullah Babar was the chief of the ceremony. Riaz Khan Daudzai, the winner in the Journalist category, had made effective use of existing national and sub-national RTI legislation in the country to do his investigative stories. His stories not only unearthed corrupt and unlawful practices, but also led to course correction in some cases. Zohaib Hassan, the winner in the Citizen category, being a person with disability, he has made excessive use of RTI laws for solving issues of PWDs and improving the quality of service delivery at the local level.

Mukhtar Ahmed Ali, founding director CPDI and former Punjab Information Commissioner added that although government departments are striving hard for dissemination of information, there is still a need to change behaviours for the purpose.

Two reports on the status of online proactive disclosure of information in provincial departments in Punjab and KP were also launched on the occasion. The studies analyze the compliance of proactive disclosure clause mentioned in KP RTI Act (sec 5) and Punjab T& RTI Act 2013 (sec 4) by the provincial departments. The reports show that as compared to Punjab, KP departments are leading in online proactive disclosure as per set criteria. KP RTI Commission scored highest with 95% of online proactive disclosure in KP. On the other hand, the Punjab Provincial Assembly comes at the top with 88% of online proactive disclosure in Punjab.

Expressing views about the status of access to information in Pakistan, Amer Ejaz, Executive Director CPDI, opined that despite having effective RTI laws, implementation and operationalisation of these laws is still over-passed by government departments. The government has not fully accepted our right to know. After more than a year, RTI laws in Sindh and at the Federal level are still not operationalised. He demanded that appellate forums should be established at the earliest. The need of enacting effective RTI law in Balochistan was also highlighted.

The event was jointly organised by CRTI, KP Information Commission and Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) GmbH.