ISLAMABAD, September 28: The Coalition on Right to Information (CRTI) conferred RTI Champions Awards 2017 on Fakhar Durrani and Asif Munawar in the Journalist and Citizen categories respectively, here at National Press Club on Thursday. Mr. Pervaiz Rashid, Former Federal Minister for Information, Broadcasting and National Heritage along with the Senator Farhatullah Babar presided the RTI Award ceremony.
While speaking at the Award ceremony, Former Federal Minister for Information opined, God didn’t hide anything from people but these so called Gods on the earth hide information from people. There are some institutions in Pakistan that don’t encourage flow of information. Unfortunately, It is not easy to get access to information from the all the institutions. Today’s democracy in Pakistan is away from transparency. Right of access to information is not protected and the relevant laws are not implemented. Most of the information is not provided on the pretext of threat to national security. We should have the right to know, who helped in the emergence of non-state actors, budget spent on its making and what amount of damage they caused. He said that RTI Bill 2017 will gradually promote the right of getting access and it will break the culture of secrecy. He was hopeful that in future there will be culture of asking and getting information from government. Implementation of RTI law is significant for transparency and the bright future of Pakistan.
Speaking at the award ceremony, which coincided with the 15th International Right to Know Day, Senator Farhat Ullah Babar said “that the good RTI law should apply to all the institutions but security establishment in Pakistan is the elephant in the room. Requested information is not provided on the basis of public interest and under the label of ‘secret and sensitive’. He also criticized the institutions for delayed RTI legislation and implementation. He opined that the ‘Dawn Leaks’ was not the issue of national security; it was candid discussion between the institutional heads.
Fakhar Durrani, the winner in the Journalist category, had made an effective use of the existing national and sub-national RTI legislation in the country to do his investigative stories, including on the parliamentarians who obtained medical treatment abroad from taxpayers’ money, HEC scholarships during the past five years and pensions of retired employees of the Ministry of Defense.
Asif Munawar, the winner in the Citizen category, hails from Jhang district. He filed a number of information requests under the Punjab Transparency and RTI Act 2013, thus contributing to improving the quality of service delivery at the local level.
Congratulating the winners, Centre for Peace and Development Initiatives Executive Director Amer Ejaz said that people of Pakistan are empowered by the constitution of Pakistan to get access to information however Freedom of Information Ordinance 2002 and Right of Access to Information Bill 2017, which seek to repeal FOI 2002 is regretfully still restrictive in nature. He also mentioned the need of appointing Punjab Information Commissioners and establishment of Sindh Information Commission. He encouraged all the citizens to use their right to know.
About CRTI: CRTI is a platform of 53 civil society organisations working for the enactment of RTI laws that are in line with international best practices.