Media Foundation 360 in collaboration with Near Media LLC conducted a ‘Training of Trainers’ from January 31 to February 3, 2017 in Islamabad on “Bridging the Information Gap: Access and Professionalism in Investigative Reporting”. The training focused on Right to Information Laws (RTIs), focus statement of a story, data journalism, sources, follow up questions and interview techniques. Participants were also given assignments to apply the techniques in each session. There were four learning steps in each segment that included explanation, demonstration, application and evaluation.
As many as 13 senior journalists from print and electronic outlets from different parts of Pakistan attended the training. Since RTI laws are not uniform in Pakistan, the workshop offered unique opportunity to learn about the Federal and Provincial RTI laws. The workshop participants learnt about importance and effectiveness of RTI laws, the difference between RTI laws and Freedom of Information Act, and their use to report in-depth and investigative stories for improved governance public officials’ accountability.
Speaking to the participants via Skype from Atlanta, USA, President NearMedia LLC Lisa Schnellinger said, “RTI laws are currently in the process of evolution in Pakistan. And their use by journalists and general public will make them more effective and stronger over a period of time.”
Senior Journalists Mubasher Bukhari, Auranzaib Khan and Fatima Ali led the rest of the sessions as trainers.
The participants went through rigorous exercise of understanding and using RTI laws which included participants understanding what kind of information comes under the category of ‘public information’ available with various public bodies; the method of drafting and submitting RTI request with federal, provincial and other public bodies; and how to make an appeal in case of an RTI request being declined. Exercises on focus statement, follow up questions and interview techniques were also held to help participants learn and practice the tools.
The workshop also focused on equipping journalists with larger set of skills that included various tools to find and investigate in-depth stories. During these exercises each participant came up with story ideas that was discussed and critiqued by the instructors and fellow participants to achieve more clarity and depth.