Media Foundation 360 organised a three-day training workshop for professional journalists in Multan on May 16-18 on ‘Investigative Reporting through public record and use of Right to Information Laws’.
Highly skilled and professional journalists from various media groups attended the workshop and stunned the trainers by exhibiting deep involvement, punctuality and strong skills. The extremely practical workshop focused skills like use of RTI law, focus statement of a story, data journalism, techniques to conduct interviews and methods to ask follow-up questions.
On the third and last day of Multan Training Session on May 18, MF360 organised a forum which was attended by City Police Officer Multan Ahsan Younas, Deputy Commissioner Multan Nadir Chatha, District Information Officer Multan Waseem Yousaf, Spokeswoman of Multan Police Ms Shabina, Professor of Media Studies Department at Bahaud Din Zikria University Multan Babar Khaqan and 12 experienced journalists from the leading media houses.
The forum vibrantly discussed Punjab Right to Information Law and bureaucratic hitches in its implementation in letter and spirit.
The journalists were almost unanimous on the points:
- The RIT law is for the people but majority of the people, especially in 13 districts of Southern Punjab, is not aware of the law and their rights to know. An awareness campaign must be launched by the government to educate the people about RTI
- Heads of the Government’s institutions should regularly review the performance of Press Information Officers (PIOs) in their respective institutions to know if they are cooperating with people under RTI
- Most of the PIOs are also least bothered about the RTI, and don’t exhibit friendly attitude to media and people when they seek information under the law
Suggestions by journalists:
- The PIOs should be trained about handling the RTI requests and responding positively
- The concerned department should introduce a policy about provision of information within the timeframe, given by the law
- An RTI commissioner should be appointed at every divisional headquarter. The provincial commissioner holds office in Lahore. The applicants cannot go this far to submit appeal to the commissioner if their requests are declined by the local departments in Southern Punjab.
- The officers should be educated about ‘classified’ and ‘non-classified’ information
DPO Ahsan Younas was quite pleasant, positive and cooperative towards the suggestions.
He committed, “I would direct all police stations in Multan to display banners in the police stations about RTI Law to educating people and implementation of the law.”
“If local journalists cooperate with Multan Police, I am ready to air an announcement about RTI Law through Multan’s Police Radio Station FM 88.6 after every hour.”
“However, I think that some of the documents and information are not public. The media should also understand the difference between classified and non-classified information.”