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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.

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

 

The widening range of RTI use in Bangladesh

February 22, 2021 By: information Category: RTI Column

The Daily Star , February 15, 2021

Shamsul Bari and Ruhi Naz

Jamaluddin of Dinajpur had learnt at a training session that the Right to Information (RTI) Act 2009 of Bangladesh was enacted to provide a legal basis for citizens to exercise their rights as “owners of all powers of the Republic”. He reflected for some time on the concept of “legally enforceable ownership” of power by the people and looked for an opportunity to put it to the test. So, when he learnt that a local government official was notorious for his rude behaviour towards subordinates and members of the public, he decided to put a stop to this colonial practice. He submitted an RTI request to the concerned office, where this very government official was the Designated Officer (DO) to deal with such requests. Jamaluddin simply asked to know whether such misbehaviour was permitted under the rules of conduct of government officials. The official did not reply, and Jamaluddin appealed to the higher authority in Dhaka. This obliged the DO to reply, admitting that indeed misbehaviour was not permitted. Since then, the official’s behaviour reportedly changed for the better and Jamaluddin emerged as a hero to the public. Read more

How citizen engagement with RTI law is transforming lives

January 20, 2021 By: information Category: RTI Column

The Daily Star, January 15, 2021

Shamsul Bari and Ruhi Naz
During the construction work of a regional highway in Dinajpur, local inhabitants were increasingly bothered by the dust it generated. One of them, Mosaddekul Islam, fired by his new-found knowledge of the Right to Information (RTI) Act, asked the concerned public authority what measures were taken to ensure that no harm was caused to the local population by its operation. On receipt of his RTI request, the project engineer immediately directed the construction firm to spray the affected areas with water twice a day, which was promptly done.
This and similar other stories were shared last month among activists and fans of the RTI Act from all over the country. They had gathered for a virtual meeting to find out how the law had fared during the pandemic. It appeared that fear and devastation caused by the pandemic had spurred their appreciation of the tremendous importance of transparency and accountability in governance. Our earlier fears about the negative impact of the crisis on the operation of the law were largely belied… Read more

A clarion call for civil society to make the RTI Act a success

December 22, 2020 By: information Category: RTI Column

The Daily Star,  December 15, 2020

Shamsul Bari and Ruhi Naz

Most countries of the world have moved in the past 50 years from the age-old practice of government secrecy towards making their work largely accessible by the public through Right to Information (RTI) or Freedom of Information (FOI) legislation. Despite this slow revolution, secrecy in government work remains a deeply entrenched tradition. Even in more mature democracies, governments remain ever ready to limit the operation of the law whenever possible. We saw this during the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic.

This resistance is not difficult to understand. Governments do not like that their shortcomings or wrongdoings are discovered by citizens. RTI/FOI acts are instruments to make that possible. They arose from citizens’ rights movements, to the growth of consumerism, to distrust of the bureaucracy, to the struggle for press freedom, etc. They gave rise to public pressure on governments to adopt the law. Read More.