ISLAMABAD: Pakistan Information Commission (PIC) has directed the Ministry of Interior to provide the footage of the journalist Matiullah Jan’s abduction incident to the former Senator Farhatullah Babar within ten working days.
The commission in its detailed order issued on October 13, has stated that as considerable time has elapsed since the incident depicted in the requested footage took place, the disclosure of the footage is not going to give any advantage to those involved in the kidnapping incident. In fact, the certified footage may help identify those involved in the criminal act. As such, the disclosure of requested footage is in the public interest.
Order states, that the designated Public Information Officer (PIO) of the Ministry of Interior not only delayed and denied access to the requested information, the PIO also failed to comply with the duly sent notices of the commission.
It is further added that this commission is of the view that the wilful delay or denial of the requested information causes undue cost to citizens and the commission. Citizens have to approach this commission for the exercise of their fundamental constitutional right of access to information which involves cost both in terms of money and time.
If directions of the commission in this Order are not followed, it will be left with no option but to invoke Section 20 (f) of the Right of Access to Information Act 2017, order states.
According to Section 20 (f) of the Right of Access to Information Act 2017, the commission has the power to impose on the official a fine equivalent to his salary for one day, for a maximum of one hundred days, who has acted wilfully to obstruct any activity which is required to be undertaken by this Act, including preventing or delaying the disclosure of information to an applicant.
PIC in its order has directed the Ministry of Interior to provide the requested information, if available with the Ministry or with any of its attached departments, divisions or any of its subordinate office within ten working days.
Background of the case:
Former Senator Farhatullah Babar on July 22, 2020 wrote a letter to the Interior Secretary requesting to provide the Closed-Circuit Television (CCTV) footage showing the kidnapping incident of a senior journalist Matiullah Jan at Government Girls School G-6 Islamabad dated July 21, 2020.
He moved to Pakistan Information Commission (PIC) when he did not receive any response from the Ministry of Interior despite sending them a reminder about his information request.
The Commission on the appeal of Farhatullah Babar had issued notice to the Ministry of Interior with the directives to explain why the requested information is not being provided to the applicant.
The public body did not respond to the notice of the commission. The case was fixed for hearing before Pakistan Information Commission on Thursday, October 08, 2020.
However, during hearing no one appeared on behalf of the Ministry of Interior before the commission.
During the hearing of the case, former Senator Farhatullah Babar said, CCTV footage at public places, showing a crime should be available on the website of the Ministry of Interior under Section 5 of the act.
He added, if a single government official is identified in the footage, it would help the authorities to decide the missing person cases.
“My next step will be to get the noting made on my information request and commission notices, to know who have denied the provision of footage requested under the Right of Access to Information Act”, he added.