Centre for Peace and Development Initiatives (CPDI) held a protest rally today, in front of the National Press Club. The rally was joined by faculty from Civil Society Organizations, citizens and journalists.
The protesters raised their concerns against the ‘Right of Access to Information Bill 2017 approved by the Senate of Pakistan on May 29, 2017 and emphasized that the Bill is weak and restrictive. CPDI while leading the protest rally, expressed to have a bearing on the Right of Access to Information Bill 2017, as ineffective and prohibitive like Freedom of Information Ordinance 2002, which it seeks to repeal. It was also highlighted that the accessibility to information is in dire straits at the federal level and the RTI Bill 2017 approved by the Senate should be revisited after taking suggestions from CSOs, RTI experts and Journalists. They insisted that it’s high time that citizens of Pakistan should be empowered with their constitutionally guaranteed right of access to information.
The protesters were hopeful of the fact that the newly appointed Prime Minister unlike the former ones will pay heed to the speedy and effective legislation for securing citizen’s right of access to information. The protesters also raised slogans to protect fundamental human right to know and demanded for effective legislation on Right to Information. Suffice is to say that Federal government claims of transparency and good governance will always sound hollow unless and until federal government enacts effective right to information law.
Executive Director, CPDI, Mr. Amer Ejaz said, that the Right of Access to Information Bill 2017 falls short of meeting key standards of effective right to information legislation. Like The Freedom of Information Ordinance 2002, the Right of Access to Information Bill, 2017 also violates the key standard of effective right to information legislation, which says that there should be one clear and narrowly drawn list of exempted information and the rest should be declared public. The Government should only enact the Right of Access to Information Bill 2017 after the input of civil society groups, right to information experts and journalists. Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, Punjab and Sindh provinces have enacted effective Right to Information laws but it is unfortunate, that the federal does not have an effective RTI law for accountability of the public officials, which it claims.
It is expected that the federal government will pay attention on the matter and take steps to finalize the effective legislation on Right to Information at federal level.