ISLAMABAD: The office bearers of different Press Clubs in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa are reluctant to public funds related records under the Right to Information Act, 2013.
Not only Peshawar Press Club (PPC) but many other press clubs in the province avoided sharing information with citizens who have approached them for the information under the RTI law.
According to the document available with The Reporters, the KP Information Commission has received at least 13 complaints so far against different Press Clubs; of which seven complaints are pending before the KP RTI Commission for the past few years.
The Commission has also imposed fine on Peshawar Press Club (PPC), Abbottabad Press Club (APC) and Mardan Press Club (MPC) for not providing the requested information to citizens.
It is to mention here that despite the KP Information Commission having issued multiple notices and directions to the respective press clubs, the office bearers of these press clubs didn’t pay heed to the notices.
Mardan Press Club (MPC) has shared information after the commission imposed fine on the office bearers while the others press clubs neither paid the fine nor provided the requested information.
The document further reveals that first two complaints were filed against Nowshera Press Club in April 2016, and both of the complaints are still pending before the commission. The KP RTI commission even ‘failed’ to issue an order against the NPC and the complaint against the journalists’ forum is pending since 2016.
Meanwhile, a complaint against Mansehra Press Club (MPC) which was filed in January 2018, could not be prosecuted.
KPIC Information Commissioner Riaz Daudzai when asked accepted that the Press Clubs never shared information with citizens whenever they were asked under the RTI law. In most of the cases, the applicant also did not follow their information requests against them, Daudzai added.
According to the document, Syed Bukhar Shah, president PPC, is even reluctant to publicize the record which he had himself sought from the Peshawar Press Club under the RTI law a year ago.
To a question regarding the delay in decisions, Daudzai said that most of the complaints were received by the commission even before his appointment, adding that the matter was brought to his knowledge when a citizen approached the commission.
Riaz Daudzai said, it is also under consideration to file reference against those public bodies that are reluctant to share the information despite the orders of the commission.
The Commission has processed all the pending complaints and will be decided soon, the Commissioner said. Moreover, it is also under consideration to file reference against those public bodies that are reluctant to share the information despite the orders of the commission, Daudzai maintained.
Abbottabad Press Club President Amir Jadon when contacted admitted that they have received an information request and the KP Information commission has also issued notices and imposed fine on the Press Club.
Amir Jadoon said that the government department deposits fine and provides information because the Commission may take action against them at departmental level but they cannot do anything if the Press Clubs do not comply with their orders.
The APC president said RTI laws are good for bringing transparency in the country but unfortunately the public sometimes misuse these laws. Why does a press club share records of their funds’ related details with the general public under the RTI laws, Jadoon questioned.
It doesn’t mean that there is something wrong with the financial matters of press clubs but it is a matter of domain and authority, he maintained.
He said that the press club submits its audit reports and fund utilization records to the Ministry of Information every year, but that record cannot be shared with the public.
Nadeem Tanoli – who is complainant against multiple press clubs –said the KP Information Commission has made RTI complaints like “Dewani Muqadma” (land disputes which take decades to decide in the court).
He said in the beginning he was regularly contacting the commission to know updates about his complaints but after some time he disappointed and stopped using KP RTI law effectively.
KP Information Commission has made RTI complaints like “Dewani Muqadma”, says Nadeem Tanoli
Tanoli maintained that it is not the duty of the citizen to follow-up the cases but it is the duty of the commission to timely process the complaints. The commission has the power of the civil court but don’t know why they are hesitating in exercising this power. Nadeem Tanoli said that initially, they were imposing fine now they have stopped that practice as well, adding that the government department are taking advantage of the incompetence of the Commission.
It is pertinent to mention that the information shared by the KP Information Commission is also incomplete as the commission was also requested to provide copies of the detailed verdicts issued against press clubs, list of the press clubs who have challenged the order before the court and copies of the reply submitted by the commission before the court.
But the KP Information Commission has only shared the list of the complaints and respondent name and their current status and rest of the information is still awaited from the Commission.
Syed Bukhar Shah – President Peshawar Press Club and Noor Khaliq – President Noshehra Press Club, could not be reached for comment despite repeated attempts.