Govt accused of violating right to information law | Pakistan Press Foundation (PPF)

Pakistan Press Foundation

Govt accused of violating right to information law

Pakistan Press Foundation

ISLAMABAD: Speakers at a conference on Saturday accused the government of violating right to information law.

The international conference was held at a local hotel to mark World Press Freedom Day. “Mediapersons are not allowed to get information especially from the military establishment,” they maintained.

Federal Minister for Petroleum and Natural Heritage Shahid Khaqan Abbasi was the chief guest on the occasion.

He, however, said in democracy, press freedom and responsible journalism were interlinked and it was the duty of journalists to avoid unethical practices.

“We have effective right to information (RTI) laws but still we have to initiate a dialogue process in the society to identify flaws in the laws,” he said. Director Unesco Dr Kazue Kay Nagata said the RTI was the fundamental right of every person. The PML-N government is interested in economic development but it has to understand that it is linked with access to information, she said.

“Pakistan is one of the most dangerous countries for journalists. On average seven journalists are murdered every year but since 2000 only two cases were solved. Government has to ensure peace in the country because foreign investment is stopped when international community hears that even journalists are not safe in the country,” she said.

“Donor organisations also divert funds to peaceful areas. Moreover, tourism industry, which brings foreign currency, also flourishes in peace,” she said.

Dr Nagata said that democracy without education can be very dangerous. It is media which can educate and give awareness to people. Media can also be used for the diplomacy, she added. Journalist Ziauddin said that fearless media was the need of the hour.

“Once inflation of the country was kept secret and no one was ready to talk about it. Now things have changed,” he said.

Journalist from Nepal Tanka Raj Aryal stressed the need of educating the public about using the RTI in South Asia because in case of no demand, the best law could end up as a bad law. “We have to tell the people that RTI is not for the media, it is citizens’ right,” he said.

“According to a survey, in Nepal, 54 per cent journalists do not want to mention their name on investigative stories and 48 per cent want to tone down the stories because they cannot face the pressure,” he said.

While expressing solidarity with journalists on the occasion of World Press Freedom Day, PCP Chairman Shafqat Mahmood Abbasi said, “We salute those who lost their lives in the lines of duty.”

He asked the government both at provincial and federal level to extend the RTI laws to provincial level.