Govt warned against amending RTI law

PESHAWAR: Many civil society organizations have opposed the proposed ‘controversial’ amendments to the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Right to Information Act, 2013, declaring the government’s move contrary to the people’s fundamental rights.

They also warned that they would challenge those amendments at the relevant forums.

Centre for Governance and Public Accountability programme manager Malik Masood told reporters at the Peshawar Press Club on Tuesday that the proposed RTI law amendments were meant to deprive the people of their right to information of government departments and organizations.

CSOs insist proposed changes to deprive people of right to information

He said the proposed amendments would take away the true spirit from the RTI law by blocking the people’s access to the information in the province.

Mr. Masood said instead of making the RTI law more vibrant and viable, the government was trying to turn it into a weak law through amendments.

He said under the proposed amendments to the law, the people should provide an effective and valid reason prior to obtaining information of any provincial government department by public information officers.

The CGPA representative regretted that the proposed amendments would bind PIOs to provide the people with only that information, which was allowed by their high-ups, an act which was against the spirit of the RTI law.

He said it was unfortunate that a bar was also suggested on the disclosure of the government departments’ internal communications citing the reason of personal views of public servant.

Mr. Masood said the proposed amendments to the RTI law were a serious blow to the government’s claim of open and transparent governance in the province.

He warned that the civil society would challenge the proposed amendments at the relevant forums.

Also in the day, the Coalition on Right to Information issued a statement saying the proposed amendments to the RTI law were regressive and would seriously undermine the efficiency of the law. It also warned it would resist the move.

“The CRTI maintains that the KP RTI Act, 2013, in its current shape, is one of the effective and well implemented RTI laws in Pakistan but the PTI-led provincial government is bringing back the colonial mindset into play by making the process of getting information from public bodies more difficult,” it said.

CPDI executive director Amer Ejaz said if passed by the assembly and enacted, the amendment bill would weaken the RTI Act, 2013, and block the people’s access to information.

Aftab Alam of the Irada, another civil society organization, said any attempt to dilute the people’s right to information was tantamount to curbing the fundamental right to information as enshrined in the Constitution.

Arshad Rizvi of the Society for Alternative Media and Research criticized the ruling party in KP over the proposed changes to the RTI law, which, he said, are ‘purely undemocratic’ and will deprive the people of the right to information.

Nighat Dad of the Digital Rights Foundation and Asad Baig of the Media Matters also opposed the proposed amendments to the RTI law saying they will weaken the ambit of the prevalent law and rig the field against the people’s right to information.