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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.

NGOs can help citizens learn to use the RTI Act

July 15, 2024 By: information Category: RTI Column

Monday, July 15, 2024

Shamsul Bari and Ruhi Naz

Recently, there has been a perceptible increase in government advertisements promoting the Right to Information (RTI) Act, 2009, particularly on television. This is welcome news, indicating government recognition of the citizens’ role in advancing good governance. The RTI Act was adopted, as enunciated in its preamble, to empower citizens to monitor the work of public offices by seeking relevant information on how they do their jobs. However, this is a complex task, as citizens must first understand the law’s myriad possibilities to use it effectively.

Regrettably, there is still a significant lack of awareness about the full potential of the RTI Act. Due to its extensive nature, promoting its use through simple awareness sessions and advertisements is proving to be a challenging, if not impossible, task. The slogans used in ads, such as “Information is power,” “Know your rights, ask for information,” and “Access to Information is a citizen’s right,” may not resonate with the people. They require assistance in understanding the reasons for seeking information in the first place. Most individuals believe that information is only necessary for specific purposes and should be sought as and when required. Few realise that the law’s primary objective is not to serve citizens’ personal information needs, but to promote the larger public interest. They also need help in identifying specific goals for using the law. Read more

RTI kept alive by rural, semi-urban citizens

June 23, 2024 By: information Category: RTI Column

Saturday, June 15, 2024

Shamsul Bari and Ruhi Naz

There is conflicting feedback from our readers on the operation of the Right to Information (RTI) Act in the country. Some believe that in the existing political climate, there is little scope for the success of a law that seeks to empower citizens to probe into the government’s inner workings. Others consider that by building incremental gains achieved through developing a close working relationship between government officials and citizens based on low-level RTI interventions, a culture of openness can be cultivated where deeper probes may be possible.

As a result, the more knowledgeable and upper echelons of society with a better understanding of how the government works have largely avoided the law. In contrast, those at the grassroots level with little knowledge about the intricacies of governance, but more interested in ensuring that the government fulfils its responsibilities to the people, have found the law useful and convenient. Read more

Citizens must use RTI Act to its full potential.

June 02, 2024 By: information Category: RTI Column

The Daily Star, Thursday, May 30, 2024

Shamsul Bari and Ruhi Naz

Bangladesh’s adoption of the Right to Information (RTI) Act in 2009 was a transformative move,empowering its citizens to access information available to most public authorities on mattersrelated to their work. It was a significant step towards making public authorities more transparentand accountable to the people. The Information Commission (IC) was constituted in 2009 toensure the law’s effective implementation. The commission is mandated to publish an annual report, giving a detailed account of its work and the performance of the demand side (citizens seeking information) and the supply side (public authorities who supply them).

The recent release of the 2023 Annual Report by the Information Commission has sparked a
significant surge in interest, with national dailies, civil society and NGOs all actively discussing its findings. This heightened attention is a promising indication, reflecting a growing recognition of the law’s potential benefits. However, it also underscores the crucial role of each stakeholder in fully harnessing this potential. Each of us, as stakeholders, plays a vital part in this journey towards transparency and accountability, and our active engagement is key to its success. Read more

Right to information takes centre stage in Indian elections

May 19, 2024 By: information Category: RTI Column

The Daily Star, Thursday, May 16, 2024

Shamsul Bari and Ruhi Naz

India’s right to information (RTI) regime has been going through a rough patch since the Bhartiya Janata party (BJP) government of Prime Minister Narendra Modi took office in May 2014. RTI activists and informed citizens are concerned that the government is weakening the power of the law. One illustration of this is the delay in nominating information commissioners, leading to a huge backlog of requests. In August last year, opposition Indian National Congress President Mallikarjun Kharge accused the government of “killing the RTI Act bit by bit,” adding that it is “not just an attack on the constitutional right, but another step in the conspiracy to end democracy.”

Against this backdrop, the unanimous decision on February 15, 2024 of a five-judge Constitution Bench of the Indian Supreme Court, led by its chief justice, to strike down the now infamous Electoral Bonds Scheme of 2018 and order the disclosure of a huge amount of sensitive information hitherto concealed from citizens came as a shot in the arm of India’s RTI Act, 2005. In Bangladesh, there is much to learn about the enormous potential of our own RTI Act, 2009 from the Indian experience. Read more