Government, Media and Citizens discuss ways to improve Right to Information in Pakistan

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Government, media and civil society to embark on a common journey to support the right to information in Pakistan

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A one-day summit on “The Role of Government, Media and Citizens for Enhanced Access to Information and Public Participation” was held in Islamabad on 16th August 2017 to improve access to information in Pakistan.

The conference organized by the Deutsche Welle Akademie and the Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) GmbH in collaboration with the Information Commissions of both the provinces agreed on a joint way forward towards strengthening the implementation of the Right to Information (RTI) Acts in Punjab and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.

The objective of the summit was to advocate for the Right to Information implementation efforts in Pakistan and encourage cooperation between the state, media and civil society in by jointly defining a way forward to promote citizens’ right to access to public information. This was achieved by bringing a vast variety of stakeholders together in one forum.

The participants of the summit included government, media and civil society representatives, most of them contributing to the successful implementation of the Right to Information Laws.

During the event participants did not only discuss their role and contributions to enhance access to information, but also learned about the outcomes of the project. Furthermore, they agreed on a number of recommendations for an improved implementation of RTI. These recommendations are one of the results of the project. They also stressed upon the need to encourage the culture of information sharing in the Government departments.

Mr. Shahid Farooq, Chief Governance and IT, Planning and Development Department Punjab said: “We need to create a culture of open mind on the Government side and we need to use information that has public value.”

The need to disclose information in a proactive manner was also highlighted in the event. “The proactive information disclosure is the best tool to impart information to the citizens”, said Mr. Rizwan Akram Sherwani, Director Excise, Taxation and Narcotics Control Department, Punjab.

Another useful outcome of the project is the development of two manuals – one for Public Information Officers, which provides information guidelines on roles and responsibilities of the PIOs and one for journalists, which introduces data journalism concepts and informs about the RTI laws and their application. The manuals are available from GIZ on demand.

Besides key stakeholders, opinion leaders and influencers from Pakistan, the summit was also attended by influential high ranking government officials as well as representatives of the German and international development cooperation community.

Some of the participants of the summit included Mr. Absar Aalam, Chairman PEMRA and Dr. Jurgen Zoll, First Secretary in the German Embassy Islamabad and Mr. Azmat Hanif Orakzai, Chief Information Commissioner Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.

“Access to information is key for a free society. With our activities, Deutsche Welle Akademie wants to enable journalists to make use of available data and therefore empower citizens to make informed decisions” Ms. Ute Schaeffer, Head of Media Development at DW Akademie said.

This summit marked the final event of the one-year pilot project “Implementing Right to Information Acts – Promoting Data-Driven Journalism” which is being jointly implemented by the Deutsche Welle Akademie and GIZ on behalf of the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ).

The project aims at a user-friendly implementation of the RTI Acts in Punjab and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa through training of Public Information Officers and improving the quality of data published by the public sector. It also provides support to the journalists and media houses to use the published data to report on technical subjects such as taxation and budgeting process. The activities of the pilot measure will be continued and up scaled in the Support to Local Governance Programme of GIZ.

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