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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.

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

All three branches of government fall within its ambit

March 15, 2021 By: information Category: RTI Column

Daily Star, March 15, 2021

Shamsul Bari and Ruhi Naz

The deleterious impact of the Covid-19 pandemic on the operations of the Right to Information (RTI) Act has been much discussed in the last one year. We drew attention to it in several of our columns. We also highlighted the positive role it played in enhancing public awareness about the importance of the law during a crisis period. In today’s column, we revert to its use in normal times.

Let’s look at three examples from neighbouring India, Pakistan, and Sri Lanka—some more recent than others.

The Sri Lankan example stemmed from an RTI request filed by a local journalist, Chamara Sampath, who sought from the secretary general of the Parliament the list of Members of Parliament (MP) who had submitted Declaration of Assets and Liabilities during the years 2010-2018. The secretary general declined to release them, arguing that they were submitted confidentially by the MPs to the speaker, and he had no access to them. He also felt that the request infringed on the privileges of the Parliament.. Read more