12 March, 2013

Web Information portal for Citizens launched before Elections

Sana Jamal

Islamabad - As Pakistan prepares for momentous general elections, with extended media hype, there are high hopes for the young voter turnout in upcoming elections that will witness country’s first transfer of power between civilian governments. At this decisive time, a unique learning and advocacy campaign on democracy, constitution and general elections has been launched by a local NGO here on Monday. Citizens Wire is an online information portal for public and media that offers explanatory information about the constitution, election laws, party manifestos, and constitutional reports.
Launched by Centre for Civic Education Pakistan, Citizens Wire aims to create a body of knowledge and information on issues related to the Constitution, laws, elections, democracy and best practices in governance. Zafarullah Khan, Editor of the Citizens Wire, vows to make modest contribution to strength the democracy. “Realizing that access to accurate and timely information is essential to the health of democracy and to facilitate the citizens to make informed electoral choices besides keeping a check on the functioning of their elected representatives and the government” he said, speaking at the launching ceremony of information portal. 

Hafiz Tahir Khalil, a senior journalist, noted that in highly charged political atmosphere, media was ignoring key issues. He suggested that pre- election reporting should focus on issues of health, education and infrastructure in different constituencies rather political issues. 
Adnan Rehmat of Internews observed there was a big gap to deal with constitutional issues in a manner to be understood by the common readers. “Article 19(a) of the Constitution guarantees right of access to information and the initiatives like Citizens Wire can help realize that constitutional provision,' he said. 
Agha Nasir, veteran journalist, shared his experience of covering 1970 elections while appreciating the launch of an innovative web portal for citizens. Azhar Malik of the United Nations recommended that social issues must also be discussed on Citizens Wire in the backdrop of promises and pledges by different political parties. 

Citizens Wire that can be accessed at www.citizenswire.com is aimed at raising the awareness level of the electorates so that they can exercise the power of their vote in choosing the best available candidates. The launching ceremony of the web portal was attended by eminent journalists, experts and social activists who hailed the initiative terming it a timely and beneficial act ahead of the general elections.