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Call to enhance journalists’capacity for better use of RTI laws

By Our Correspondent
October 15, 2019


Speakers at a seminar here Monday underlined the need to enhance capacity of journalists for better utilisation of Right to Information (RTI) laws in investigative journalism.

They were speaking at a seminar held at Punjab University. Senator Waleed Iqbal, PU Vice-Chancellor Prof Niaz Ahmed, senior journalists Fahd Hussain, Muhammad Malick, Incharge ICS Dr Noshina Saleem, PU Human Rights Chair Incharge Dr Bushra Rehman, Chief Information Commissioner Punjab Mahboob Qadir, journalists and a large number of students were present.

Addressing the seminar, Waleed Iqbal said Article 19 of the Constitution of Pakistan ensured freedom of speech and expression with a very few restrictions. He said we must take care of others’ reputation while exercising our right of freedom of expression. He said the true spirit of right to information rules and regulations was to release information pertaining to wrongdoings in departments.

Prof Niaz Ahmed said PU issued all public information on its websites as access to information led to transparency. He said good governance, merit and law prevailed in every operation of the university.

He said the institution which was not performing could not survive in this age of competition. He said PU was the first university to establish Human Rights Chair. He urged the newsmen to highlight positive activities of Pakistan to establish good repute of the country.

Senior journalist Fahd Hussain said media industry was facing two types of crises i.e. financial problems and working capacity of journalists. He said unless we enhanced capacity of journalists to utilise RTI, we could not benefit from RTI laws in true manner. He said media was showing what audience was demanding.

Senior journalist Muhammad Malick said the rating saga had badly affected the content and quality of TV programmes. He said over-population was one of the biggest issues being faced by the country but if we do a programme on it we would receive zero-rating. He said there must be serious punishments over violations of RTI Act for better implementation of the law.

Chief Information Officer Mahboob Qadir said RTI Act was a silent revolution. He said right to information was equal to right to life.

He said the basic aim of RTI Act was to ensure good governance and eliminate corruption. He said there was need to create awareness about RIT Act among the people. He said there was need to hire regular public information officers at all institutions. He said that Punjab Information Commission had disposed of 1,600 new complaints and around 1,700 pending complaints in a year.

Dr Bushra Rehman said RTI Act had important role to play in investigative journalism. She said in the age of digital media we face the challenge of misunderstanding, half-cooked or false information.

She said facts must be verified and academia and working journalists must join hands to cope with the challenges in the field. Later, a panel discussion was organised among the participants where senior journalists and students exchanged ideas and experiences and discussed various issues in the field.