ISLAMABAD: The Coalition on Right to Information (CRTI) conferred RTI Champions Awards 2017 on Fakhar Durrani and Asif Munawar in the ‘journalist’ and ‘citizen’ categories respectively, here at National Press Club on Thursday.
Speaking on the occasion, former federal minister for Information Pervaiz Rashid said that certain institutions in the country did not encourage free flow of information and it was not easy to get information from them. He regretted that mostly the requested information was not provided on the pretext of threat to national security.
“It is hoped that the Right of Access to Information (RAI) Bill 2017 being tabled in the National Assembly (NA) would gradually promote the culture of transparency in the country,” he said.
Speaking at the award ceremony, which coincided with the 15th International Right to Know Day, Senator Farhat Ullah Babar said the RTI law should apply to all the institutions. “The security establishment in Pakistan is the elephant in the room because it does not cater to information requests citing public interest,” he remarked.
Congratulating the winners, Centre for Peace and Development Initiatives Executive Director Amer Ejaz said that the constitution empowered the people of the country to freely exercise the right to information, but the proposed RAI Bill 2017 was restrictive in nature and limited in scope. He also highlighted the need for appointing Punjab information commissioner and establishing the Sindh Information Commission.
Fakhar Durrani, the winner in the journalist category, had made an effective use of the existing national and sub-national RTI legislation in the country to do his investigative stories, including on the parliamentarians who obtained medical treatment abroad from taxpayers’ money, HEC scholarships during the past five years and pensions of retired employees of the ministry of Defence.
Asif Munawar, the winner in the citizen category, hails from Jhang district. He filed a number of information requests under the Punjab Transparency and RTI Act 2013, thus contributing to improving the quality of service delivery at the local level.