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Documentary on Information as Right: use of RTI Act by civil rights activists.

July 26, 2020 By: information Category: RTI Column

 

Documentary on Information as Right: use of RTI Act by civil rights activists- Click for Watch.

Only ‘We, the People’ can unleash the full potential of RTI law

July 17, 2021 By: information Category: RTI Column

The Daily Star, July 15, 2021

Shamsul Bari and Ruhi Naz

Bangladesh has long been known for the political activism of its citizens, ready to fight for their rights and defend their freedom. The creation of the country in 1971 is a testimony to that. Now—in an age when institutions of representative governance are in fast decline both globally and locally—is the time for us to seize what the Right to Information (RTI) Act 2009 offers as an alternative to continue that tradition.

Our first job is to convince the upper echelons of our society, who have largely ignored the law so far, that without their participation its full potential will remain untapped. Since its adoption 12 years ago, the law has been kept alive mainly by ordinary citizens. With the help of RTI enthusiasts and some committed NGOs, they have demonstrated, however sparsely, the power of the law to initiate positive change in governance. To go beyond and make higher gains, we need the participation and leadership of people who are more knowledgeable about the inner workings of the government and better equipped to understand the intricacies of the law and its use…Read More

Finding a balance between official secrecy and citizens’ right to information

June 20, 2021 By: information Category: RTI Column

The Daily Star, June 15, 2021

Shamsul Bari and Ruhi Naz

“We see all governments as obscure and invisible,” said Sir Francis Bacon, English philosopher and statesman, in 1605. Governments should work behind the scenes, beyond public view, he felt. And this is how the British Government worked till the dawn of the 21st century, when Britain’s Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) was adopted in 2000.

The UK was late to the party, with other western nations having forged ahead with the adoption of FOIAs (Sweden as early as 1766). The US came two centuries later in 1966 and scores of other countries adopted theirs since then, until it became embarrassing for the UK not to follow suit. Political parties extolled the virtues of freedom of information while in opposition, but did little to advance it when in power. Government and the bureaucracy found it hard to abandon…Read More

RTI in Bangladesh: Narrowing the perception gap between citizens and public authorities

May 19, 2021 By: information Category: RTI Column

The Daily Star, May 12, 2021

Shamsul Bari and Ruhi Naz

The Bangladesh Right to Information (RTI) Act 2009 is a unique piece of legislation. Most laws are largely founded on the concept of government responsibility to regulate citizen behaviour, but the RTI law establishes government accountability to its citizens. It seeks to ensure the primacy of citizens over the government. The RTI law is not only unique, but revolutionary.

Such a revolutionary concept takes time to turn into practice and to mature. Both sides—the public and their officials—need a fundamental mindset shift. Public officials, long used to exercising unbridled state power, must give up their instinctive response to resist and learn to accept the new reality. Citizens, the main beneficiaries of the law and as such its best custodians, are unprepared to play the role. There is thus little pressure from them for change…Read More

Revisiting the role of RTI for sustainable development

April 19, 2021 By: information Category: RTI Column

The Daily Star, April 16, 2021

Shamsul Bari and Ruhi Naz

We must not forget that we cannot bring good fortune for the people if our characters do not change! By rising above nepotism, corruption and self-deception, all of us have to be engaged in self-criticism, self-restraint, and self-purification.”

These are words Bangabandhu used to address the nation on December 25, 1974, underlining his views on good governance. Thirty-five years later, his daughter, Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, translated them into the Right to Information Act (RTI) 2009.

She quoted them in her own message to the nation, contained in a government document published in October 2012. Entitled “Commitment for Golden Bengal: National Integrity Strategy of Bangladesh”, it outlined her government’s vision to achieve Bangabandhu’s dream of Shonar Bangla..Read more