Islamabad: Speakers at a conference on Thursday were in consensus that the federal government needs to amend the right to information law to enhance its effectiveness for the general public.
They also observed that the RTI law at the federal level is poor as compared to the provincial right to information laws.
They were speaking at the conference on “Role of Civil Society in Implementation of Right to Information”. The event was organized by CPDI in collaboration with Media Matters for Democracy and Pakistan Press Foundation in Islamabad.
A proposed draft prepared by CPDI also states the RTI law at the federal level is poor as compared to the provincial RTI laws.
The participants of the conference were told that the draft for the proposed amendment in the federal RTI law will be shared with the government after consultation with the members of the coalition of Right to Information.
Chief Information Commissioner, Pakistan Information Commission (PIC), Mohammad Azam briefed the participants on the two-year performance of the Commission and challenges it faced in implementation of the Commission orders.
Mohammad Azam said corruption will reduce if the citizen effectively practices the right to information laws.
The chief information commissioner said proactive disclosure of the information on websites can reduce the work burden on the government departments.
The Commission has [so far] sent more than 100 letters to different government departments, directing them to make sure availability of information on their websites and sought compliance reports, said Information Commissioner Zahid Abdullah.
It is a result of the civil society organisations struggles that the dream of right to information law has come true, Zahid Abdullah said.
He further said the PIC has made a number of landmark decisions, including exemption of fee for information request and copy of CNIC.
Sadaf Khan – Director, Media Matters for Democracy – highlighted the impact of covid-19 on access of information and said the government’s covid-19 portal is not effective and citizens face a lot of difficulties while using it.
Sadaf Khan said the government needs to contradict the Misinformation campaign about the covid-19 vaccine, suggesting that the government should make sure the information is accessible for every citizen.
CPDI Executive Director Mukhtar Ahmed Ali said we have RTI laws at federal level and three provinces and it is the result of the civil society organizations’ efforts.
He said there are thousands of the people practicing the RTI laws across the country today, and the number is increasing continuously.
If you are working on any human rights issue, you will need certified information for that and will require RTI but even then, people are not practicing these laws, may be they don’t have trust on its implementation, the CPDI ED was curious.
Probably, the resistance of the government institutions can increase as the use of these laws increase, he said, adding that they might try to amend these laws, and that is because of the culture of secrecy in the government departments, Mukhtar Ahmed Ali added.
There are some laws/regulations/ rules that contradict Article-19 A of the Constitution of Pakistan, including official secret act, he explained.
RTI should be included in the training manual of the govt officers, and the commission should write to the training academies, the right activist suggested.