Media Foundation 360 organised a forum on Right to Information (RTI) laws at the end of a three-day training workshop on “Bridging the Information Gap: Investigative Reporting with Public Records.”
Former Secretary Information Punjab and Advisor to Chief Minister Punjab and Deputy Director of Directorate General of Public Relations Punjab (DGPR) Muhammad Aurangzaib along with two other officials of the DGPR attended the forum.
After brief introductions, the participants, 15 female journalists from Islamabad, Lahore, Karachi, Multan, Peshawar and Quetta, presented their recommendations for increasing the efficacy of RTI laws in Pakistan.
Views and recommendations by the journalists from KP
Public Information Officers are never punished for their misconduct hence effecting their performance.
Authority of the commission should be increased.
Educational institutions went to the High Court against RTI’s release of information regarding the students. Which has become a setback for future processing of such applications as the court has now stopped flow of such information.
Traders don’t have access to official info regarding biddings.
Political influence needs to be reduced on the Commission.
Slackened performances of different government organizations are veiled under the lack of disclosure credited to “threat to national security”.
PIO’s are given amenity.
Views and Recommendation by Islamabad’s Journalists
There should be a penalty for refusal of information.
Protection should be ensured for the applicants.
Online up-gradation of the system.
Views from Balochistan’s journalists
This act although exists, but only in letter and not spirit.
The law enforcement agencies should assist and support the applicants.
Action should be taken against delay in the process.
Protection of the applicant should be ensured.
Views from Sindh
Recommendations of the journalistic bodies should be taken in consideration.
Government interference should be curbed.
Response time should be minimum 10 and maximum 25 days.
The monetary penalty should be increased.
The National Security Clause should be lenient.
Advisor to Chief Minister Punjab Shoaib bin Aziz said that all the recommendations are valuable and promised to convey them to authorities for the further improvement, at least, in the Punjab’s law.
He said that the recommendation to make the process of seeking information under RTI laws online is a brilliant idea and he will recommend this to the authorities.
He was of the view that RTI laws are a good help to the investigative journalists.
He said that there are several loopholes in the laws which need to be removed through amendments.