Islamabad: Saddia Mazhar, a prominent Senior Journalist and Editor at The Reporters Dot Pk, has raised serious concerns regarding alleged harassment by an official from the Evacuee Trust Property Board while seeking information under the Right to Information Act.
Mazhar took to social media platforms, specifically Facebook and X (formerly Twitter), to narrate her distressing encounter.
She detailed her attempts to obtain information from the ETPB regarding the worship places of minorities in Pakistan. Initially met with silence, she escalated her request to the Pakistan Information Commission (PIC), prompting responses from the board declaring the information as classified.
I received this letter from Pakistan information commission today. Later, an officer from the Department of Religious Affairs visited my home in the evening (though I wasn’t there). 1/1#RTI @RTIOfficiel@RTI_INTL_DEV @FarhatullahB pic.twitter.com/cHKUP96OWX
— Saddia Mazhar|سعدیہ مظہر (@SaddiaMazhar) December 8, 2023
Despite PIC’s involvement and subsequent notices, the Evacuee Trust Property Board reportedly failed to provide the requested information or to attend the hearings at Pakistan Information Commission, leading the Commission to issue a show cause notice to the board’s Chairman.
Shockingly, instead of providing the requested information, an ETPB officer visited Mazhar’s residence in her absence and met with her father. The officer allegedly expressed a desire for Mazhar to meet the Director of the ETPB.
Mazhar, not present at the time of the visit, emphasized that the Right to Information Act does not condone such intrusive measures, especially targeting female applicants without consent or prior notification.
“This act is an infringement on my constitutional right of ‘Access to Information,’ guaranteed under Article 19-A of the Constitution of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan,” expressed Mazhar in her social media posts.
Journalists and civil society members have united in solidarity with Mazhar, denouncing the behavior and calling for an immediate investigation into the matter to uphold citizens’ rights and prevent such harassment tactics in the future.
The incident highlights concerns about the safety and rights of individuals seeking information through legal channels, demanding accountability and adherence to the law by public bodies.
It’s noteworthy that this isn’t the first instance Mazhar has faced such challenges. Previously, when filing an information request with the Secretary of the Sahiwal Club.
About Right to Information Act:
The Right of Access to Information Act commonly known as Right to Information (RTI) Act, enacted in 2017, empowers citizens to access information from public bodies, ensuring transparency and accountability within the government. This legislation grants individuals the right to request information from government institutions, promoting openness and shedding light on decision-making processes.
About Pakistan Information Commission:
The Pakistan Information Commission (PIC) oversees the implementation of the RTI Act, acting as an independent body responsible for resolving disputes related to information access. It ensures compliance by public entities and facilitates the right of citizens to seek information, playing a pivotal role in upholding democratic principles and citizens’ rights to access information crucial for informed decision-making and accountability in governance.