30 July, 2011

Proper Use of Right to Information highlighted

Sana Jamal

Islamabad - Few people, even journalists are scarcely aware that Pakistan promulgated the Freedom of Information Ordinance in 2002, which is applicable to all departments, ministries and other institutions of the Federal government. In this regard, a major development took place in 2010 when Article 19-A was inserted in the Constitution to make Right to Information (RTI) a fundamental right. The Article states that “every citizen shall have right to have access to information in all matters of public importance subject to regulation and reasonable restrictions imposed by law.”

In this context, a workshop for journalists on ‘Right to Information Legislation for Investigative Journalism’ was organised by Centre for Peace and Development Initiatives (CPDI) in Islamabad on Friday. The objective of the workshop was to motivate the Pakistani journalists to increase the use of right to information as tool for investigative journalism; as the world over, the media have been the most frequent users of the right to information, using the information to support their findings and stories.
Zahid Abdullah, Program Manager of CPDI gave a presentation on ‘State of freedom of information legislation in Pakistan.’ He clarified that “there is a general misconception here that information is not available but through proper means and determination, one can get the desired data.”

Muhammad Aftab Alam, an Advocate and the guest speaker explained that how citizens, journalists, legislators and civil society organizations can utilize the Right to Information Act in a manner that supports the purpose and spirit of the democracy.

It was highlighted at the workshop that the Act is important for building democratic institutions, combating corruption, and promoting public accountability. The right to information is also essential to accountability and good governance for without correct information citizens cannot possibly make informed electoral choices.