Know your privileges: Educating citizens about their right to information

Speakers discuss freedom of information legislation with the participants at workshop

Our Correspondent October 29, 2016

KARACHI: To deny people’s right is to challenge their very humanity, said Shehri-Citizens for a Better Environment (CBE) chairperson Nooruddin Ahmed during a capacity-building workshop on ‘Right to Information.’

The session, which was a fair mix of representations from all walks of life, was held at Movenpick Hotel on Friday evening.

While highlighting the active role of his organisation, he said that Shehri has played an important role in trying to facilitate good governance. According to him, the organisation has been doing this by advocating transparency in government functioning and through a proactive role of the citizenry in seeking protection of their fundamental rights, as enshrined in the Constitution.

Addressing the audience, Ahmed referred to Article 19-A of the Constitution, according to which ‘every citizen has the right to have access to information in all matters of public importance subject to regulation and reasonable restrictions imposed by law.’ He assured the participants that their organisation will help the citizens in their right to information by following the law.

Success stories

While giving a detailed presentation on the subject, Shehri-CBE programme manager Dr Syed Raza Ali Gardezi said that the right to information has empowered citizens to a greater degree. He was of the opinion that a number of success stories have been achieved through this law, such as the court taking action against the issue of rise in tuition fees in private schools and the problem of charged parking by Karachi Metropolitan Corporation.

Gardezi said that such workshops are held to create awareness and educate citizens that laws can make differences. “We don’t have a culture to question things and we need to change this thinking,” he said, adding that the fault is within us because we are not using the law. He also discussed the freedom of information legislations with the participants.

The process

While conducting the workshop, Shehri-CBE assistant programme manager Saima Adeel explained the guidelines for making Freedom of Information (FOI) application and outlined the salient features of writing an FOI application. According to her, the Shehri-CBE has 50% success ratio in terms of applications filed and results achieved.

Discussing the steps of filing an FOI application, she said that first the applicant must determine the information or record that is required and the request should be in a question form. In step two, the applicant must identify the correct public body which must be approached for obtaining the required information, she added. In step three, the applicant has to fill the application form and attach a copy of the national identity card and then deposit a fee of Rs50 in any branch of the National Bank of Pakistan. In the final step, the applicant has to submit the application along with the deposit slip and identity card to the relevant public body to get the query answered.

Later on, participants of the workshop took part in group work activity in which they drafted applications for their relevant questions based on the Freedom of Information Act, 2006.

Published in The Express Tribune, October 30th, 2016.


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