ISLAMABAD: The Senate Committee on Information, Broadcasting and National Heritage has approved right to information bill tabled by government on May 15, 2017 with undue haste and without listening to citizens, civil society groups and journalists. Centre for Peace and Development Initiatives, (CPDI) requested through a letter dated May 17, 2017 to Chairman of the committee that the Right of Access to Information Bill 2017 under its consideration is restrictive like Freedom of Information Ordinance 2002 it seeks to repeal. Furthermore, CPDI also shared specific recommendations with Chairman of the committee to improve right to information bill. It is one of the most important democratic norms that committees listen to concerns of citizens and their groups during the legislative process but Senate Standing Committee on Information, Broadcasting and National Heritage chose not to address concerns of right to information experts convey through letters, print and electronic media. Instead of empowering proposed independent and autonomous information commission, the bill approved by Senate committee empowers federal ministers to decide what people should or should not know.
Executive Director, Centre for Peace and Development Initiatives, (CPDI), Mr. Amer Ejaz said through the statement that it is mind – boggling as to how will ministers resolve conflict of interest in deciding whether information should or should not be shared with the people. Of what use would be the autonomy and independence of information commission if it does not have the power to disclose information in public interest?”
It should be noted that The Centre for Law and Democracy, Canada, which ranks right to information laws on their level of compliance with standards of effective right to information legislation, has given this right to information bill only 105 points out of 150. Sri Lanka scores 131, India 128, the Maldives 116 and Bangladesh 107. CPDI urges federal government to seek input of RTI experts, civil society and journalists when right to information bill is sent to National Assembly.