RTI effective tool to enhance quality of journalism, public oversight: Experts

ISLAMABAD : The experts at an awareness and orientation session on Wednesday underlined the use of the Right to Information (RTI) as an effective tool to ensure quality journalism and public oversight through a decent mode of information collection and dissemination for ensuring improvement and transparency in the system.

The Centre for Peace and Development Initiatives (CPDI) conducted a session for government officials and journalists on understanding RTI laws and the responsibilities of public officials.

The National Institute of Management (NIM) Quetta’s delegation, led by Director General Muhammad Aslam Ghani, expressed gratitude for the session.

Towards the session’s conclusion, participants united in calling for the effective enforcement of RTI laws in Pakistan.

A demand for the establishment of the Balochistan Information Commission under the Balochistan Right to Information Act 2021 was raised, highlighting the urgency of transparent governance and information accessibility in Pakistan.

During the second part of the orientation session journalists and media professionals gathered for an orientation session focused on leveraging the right to information for investigative reporting.

Senior investigative journalists, including Waseem Abbasi, Umar Cheema, and Tahir Khalil shared their invaluable experiences in practising investigative journalism in Pakistan. Despite the challenges and risks associated with journalism in the country, they emphasized the paramount importance of truth-telling and combating corruption through the effective use of RTI.

The Speakers remarked that the collective mission should be to bring about transparency and foster social accountability in Pakistan through the power of responsible journalism. They encouraged young and budding journalists to never shy away from speaking the truth.

During the session, participants learned about the evolution of the RTI with a particular focus on its relevance in the present context. Overall, the main theme revolved around utilizing this powerful tool as a catalyst for groundbreaking investigative reporting.

During the interactive session with young journalists, the Executive Director of CPDI, Mukhtar Ahmad Ali shed light on the progressive journey of the right to information in Pakistan.

He provided an overview of the historical and legislative landscape of the right to information and freedom of information in Pakistan. He emphasized that the emergence of RTI in Pakistan is the biggest reform in contemporary times, representing a transformation from secrecy to transparency.

He actively addressed the journalists’ inquiries, elaborating on the procedures for filing RTIs and lodging complaints under federal and provincial RTI laws.

Chief Information Commissioner of Pakistan Information Commission, Shoaib Ahmad Siddiqui, graced the event as the Chief Guest, affirming the Commission’s unwavering dedication to facilitating information disclosure for the greater benefit of the public.

He remarked that the Pakistan Information Commission is open to all citizens, especially journalists. He encouraged young journalists to be committed to the profession of unravelling the truth with dignity.

Siddiqui emphasised that journalism was an important institution that used to serve as a reformer and guide in any society whereas hostile behaviour and adversity towards the journalist fraternity would prove to be a poison for the government and the governance of the system.

NADRA urged to take leadership role in promoting open data

Islamabad:The Centre for Peace and Development Initiatives (CPDI) has written to Tariq Malik, the chairman of the National Database and Registration Authority (NADRA), to request the development and publication of various types of reports on NADRA’s website to enhance public participation, says a press release.

In the letter, CPDI’s Executive Director, Mukhtar Ahmad Ali, expressed his appreciation for the excellent initiatives being taken under Malik’s leadership, such as the eHealth suite. He also acknowledged the reports already being shared on the NADRA website, such as the ‘Annual Report 2020’ and the ‘Voter Turnout Report for General Elections 2018.’

However, Ali emphasised the immense benefits of open data initiatives in increasing transparency and accountability in the public sector. He requested NADRA to consider publishing more reports on its website, including demographic reports, voter registration reports, health reports, education reports, and a disability trends report.

Demographic reports can help policymakers allocate resources to meet the needs of different age groups, genders, people with disabilities, and geographic areas. Voter registration reports can be instrumental in ensuring fair and transparent elections, and education reports can provide insight into enrollment rates, literacy levels, and the quality of education in different regions.

Meanwhile, a disability trends report can offer critical information on the prevalence and nature of disabilities in Pakistan, as well as the access to and quality of services and support available to people with disabilities.

Ali acknowledged that NADRA has a wealth of data and information that could be valuable to the public, policymakers, and researchers. By publishing these reports as open data, NADRA can increase transparency and accountability in the public sector, promote public participation, cultivate a culture of accountability, and ultimately improve the overall quality of life for the citizens of Pakistan.

Nadra launches helpline for persons with disabilities

ISLAMABAD: The National Database and Registration Authority (Nadra) has launched a dedicated helpline for Persons with Disabilities (PWDs).

One of the most significant features of this helpline is the priority call handling system. This system will prioritise calls from PWDs, ensuring that they receive prompt and efficient assistance.

This is an essential aspect of the service, as PWDs often face a host of challenges in their daily lives and require immediate assistance in critical situations.

Nadra Chairman Tariq Malik while launching the helpline said every citizen had the right to access essential services and PWDs required special attention and support from state institutions.

He said this initiative is a reflection of Nadra’s commitment to creating a more inclusive and accessible society.

The newly launched dedicated helpline includes an appointment facility through Nadra’s Computerised Call Management System (NCCMS), allowing PWDs to schedule appointments for ID card and documents processing.

Moreover, the helpline will also provide an Interactive Voice Recording (IVR) message in both Urdu and English languages. This feature will help ensure that the service is accessible to a wider range of individuals, regardless of their language preferences or abilities.

Nadra has issued free-of-cost CNICs to more than 555,000 PWDs, including 395,000 physically challenged, 37,000 hearing impaired, 24,000 visually impaired and more than 100,000 mentally challenged persons.

On the other hand, the Centre for Peace and Development Initiatives (CPDI) has written to Nadra chairman Tariq Malik to share publications and reports on Nadra’s website to enhance public participation.

In the letter, CPDI’s Executive Director Mukhtar Ahmad Ali has expressed his appreciation for the initiatives being taken under Mr Malik’s leadership, such as the E-Health suite.

Published in Dawn, April 13th, 2023

Dar urged to get membership of Open Government Partnership restored

ISLAMABAD: A civil society organisation has written to the Minister for Finance and Revenue Ishaq Dar to get Pakistan’s membership of the Open Government Partnership (OGP) restored.

In the letter, Executive Director Centre for Peace and Development Initiatives (CPDI) Mukhtar Ahmad Ali expressed concerns regarding the revocation of Pakistan’s OGP membership due to the government’s failure to submit its National Action Plan (NAP) within the given deadline. Continue reading