Islamabad, July 20, 2012: After protracted and deafening silence on the issue of enacting law to protect citizens’ right to information, government has finally taken a step forward and Senate Standing Committee on Information and Broadcasting has formed sub-committee with the mandate to work with Ministry of Information and Broadcasting in order to finalize legislation on freedom of information.
Centre for Peace and Development Initiatives, (CPDI) believes that mandate of the sub-committee needs to be expanded as working alone with bureaucracy at Ministry of Information and Broadcasting is likely to compromise citizens’ right to information as our bureaucracy is afflicted with the malaise of dilly-dallying whenever information is sought from government departments under the existing information laws. Therefore, Senate Committee on Information and Broadcasting should actively engage journalists and citizens’ groups in the process of finalizing right to information law. This is vitally important as implementation mechanism envisaged in Ms. Sherry Rahman private member bill, the one under consideration of the Committee, is equally ineffective as the one envisaged in Freedom of Information Ordinance 2002 which the proposed Sherry Rahman information law seeks to repeal . Realizing the fact that ensuring citizens’ right to information is a specialized job, countries of the region like Bangladesh, Nepal and India have entrusted the task of protecting this right to independent and autonomous information commissions while both Ms. Sherry Rahman private member bill and Freedom of Information Ordinance 2002 entrust this task to Federal Ombudsman, a body specialized in solving mal-administration related issues, which has proven to be a toothless appellate body as it sees the right to information from narrow prism of mal-administration issue. CPDI urges the Senate Standing Committee on Information and Broadcasting to play its role proactively in enacting an effective right to information law which is at par with those enacted in the region through active involvement of journalists and citizens groups working in the area of right to information in the country.