Right to Information

How disclosure of Ertugural drama agreement details could damage Pak-Turk ties?

PIC holds the disclosure of the agreement is likely to have grave financial implications for the country if Turkish Radio and Television chooses the path of arbitration.

ISLAMABAD: Right to Information activists has questioned the Pakistan Information Commission’s decision regarding declaring “Dirilis Ertugrul” drama agreement between Pakistan Television Corporation (PTV) and Turkish Radio and Television (TRT) confidential.

The Pakistan Information Commission (PIC) on Friday had declared that “Dirilis Ertugrul” agreement can’t be made public as it could harm relations between Pakistan and Turkey.

This scribe, in October 2021, had filed a request for information seeking details of the Ertugrul Drama agreement and revenue generated from Youtube and advertisements from PTV.

When PTV didn’t respond to the applicant, he approached to Pakistan Information Commission, the appellate authority, against the PTV.

In response to the notice of the Commission, the PTV refused to share information citing making an agreement of the Ertugrul Drama could harm the relationship of both countries.

The PTV, in its response, further said that as per clause 4.7.5 of the agreement, “all terms and conditions of the agreement are made confidential” therefore, it could not be made public.

In response to its replay, the PIC directed the PTV to write a letter to the TRT and asked whether it would have any concern if the agreement made public. The TRT, however, didn’t responed to PTV letter.

Later, on Friday, The Commission issued its order and held that information pertaining to the third party can only be disclosed after the consent of the third party, quoted the Section 16 (1) (c) (i) of the RTI Act.

The PIC holds the disclosure of the agreement is likely to have grave financial implications for the country if Turkish Radio and Television chooses the path of arbitration.

Moreover, disclosure of the details of the shares of TRT World and PTV in revenue generated by YouTube cannot be disclosed as it is likely to adversely impact the legitimate commercial interests of TRT World.

“This commission notes with concern that citizens of Pakistan will not be able to exercise their constitutional right of access to information pertaining to whether YouTube channel of drama serial “Dirilis Ertugrul is owned by PTV, or, TRT World, the share of PTV in the revenue generated through this channel and share of PTV in the total revenue generated through advertisements because the third party may go for arbitration causing huge financial losses to the government of Pakistan”, PIC order reads.

The PIC has directed the PTV management to provide information only about the total revenue generated through advertisements while broadcasting the drama serial “Dirilis Ertugrul”.

When contacted, RTI activist and legal expert Aftab Alam said, the PIC order has not carried reasons that how making the agreement public is harmful. The PIC should apply ‘harm test’ and list reasons in its decision that disclosure of requested information is more harmful than public interest.

Anwar Yousafzai, Executive Direction of the Centre for Governance and Public Accountability (CGPA) said, the agreement signed between PTV and TRT pertaining to the entertainment industry. If it does not have any defense related information, how the international relations or economic internet would have been violated, he questioned.

He said, on the pretext of agreement every public body would refuse sharing information citing it as third-party information, adding third-party information are mostly related to private ownership and that public record does not fall in private information.

Mukhtar Ahmed, former Information Commission, Punjab Information Commission said, the government must not agree to unqualified confidentiality provisions in the agreements/ contracts with other countries or private/ public companies, as such a practice can undermine the purpose of Article 19A of the Constitution.

He added, the Commission can examine Confidentiality provisions in agreements/ contracts, and direct disclosure of information, if it reaches the conclusion that the requested information is not exempt, each request must be examined and decided on its own matter. In this case, the Commission could have directed to provide the contract after appropriate redactions, he maintained.

Sources said that Youtube Channel created for Drama Serial “Dirilis Ertugrul” is owned by TRT and PTV does not have any share in revenue generated from Youtube.

Saddia Mazhar

Saddia Mazhar, an accomplished Investigative Journalist hailing from District Sahiwal, Punjab, possesses a fervor for unveiling impactful narratives. With a demonstrated history of hosting radio shows, web TV programs, contributing to esteemed publications, and steering digital media platforms, she stands as a notable figure in the field. Connect with her on Twitter @SaddiaMazhar. She can be contacted at thesaddia@gmail.com
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