ISLAMABAD: The International Day of Universal Access to Information (IDUAI) was celebrated for the first time in Islamabad by Unesco and its partner organisations on Thursday.
Speakers at the event – which was organised by Unesco, the European Union and the embassies of Netherlands and Sweden – promoted the importance of the right to information as cornerstones of inclusive knowledge societies.
The celebrations aimed to raise awareness about the importance of universal access to information, and how the right to information could help attain the Sustainable Development Goals by enabling adequate monitoring and progress assessment.
A short timeline exhibition commemorated the Press Act of Sweden and showcased the ups and downs in the history of press freedom in Sweden.
The display illustrated the struggle for press freedom and the right to information as continuous and never finished.
Speaking on the occasion, Swedish Ambassador Ingrid Johansson told the audience that Sweden was a pioneer in fostering freedoms, as it had the world’s oldest press freedom act dating back to 1766.
Commemorating 250 years of the Swedish Freedom of the Press Act, she said it was an integral part of the Swedish constitution.
“It abolished political censorship, giving citizens [the] legal right to scrutinise and share public documents……..
Unesco representative Vibeke Jensen said that Pakistan had come a long way. She congratulated Punjab and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa on their right to information legislation, which are highly regarded for their quality of standards, and encouraged Balochistan to follow in their footsteps to adopt inclusive laws.
“Information is public good, must be available to all. This is particularly important in Pakistan, home to rich diversity of cultures and minorities. Since the assembly approved the right to information bill and federal government processing the right of access to information bill 2017, are important steps in promoting transparent and accountable democracy,” she said.
Human Rights Secretary Rabiya Javeri Agha said at the event that the first generation of freedom of information laws failed to spearhead transparency and accountability in Pakistan and were limited in scope and cumbersome in procedure………..
The speeches were also followed by group discussions and presentations.