Pakistani journalists face challenges in effective use of RTI laws due to a lack of enforcement, awareness of legislation
While the Right to Information (RTI) is a Constitutionally guaranteed right, in Pakistan journalists face challenges in its use due to a lack of enforcement of the legislation.
Gathering in Karachi, Pakistan Press Foundation (PPF) Investigative Reporting Fellows discussed the effectiveness of RTI laws. The journalists found that there existed reluctance and a lack of awareness amongst public officeholders about RTI laws and their responsibilities under these laws. As a result of this lack of awareness, citizens experience delayed responses to RTI requests making it difficult for them to obtain necessary information in a timely manner.
The journalists also found that the absence of effective enforcement measures of RTI laws has created a culture of non-compliance, ultimately curtailing public access to information. The PPF Investigative Reporting Fellowship brought together journalists from around the country to enhance their investigative reporting skills in a three-day investigative reporting workshop in Karachi. With training sessions on effective investigation techniques and editorial support, the use of RTI laws as a key mechanism for investigative reporting were discussed.
RTI executives ert and activist, Raza Ali Gardezi conducted the sessions on RTI laws explaining both provincial and federal right to information laws, how to write an effective RTI application and how to frame correct questions for these requests.
During the workshop, participants emphasized the need for better awareness campaigns about the provisions of the laws and stronger measures to ensure compliance.
Investigative journalist Mubasher Bukhari led the workshops guiding participants on reporting tools that they have at their disposal to enhance their skills. He emphasised the importance of personal investigation, the validity of sources and on site visits during the reporting process.
Participants shed light on the challenges journalists face in conducting investigations, including harassment, threats, and limited access to critical individuals, especially in rural areas. Women reporters in rural areas, in particular, face additional hurdles due to gender-based discrimination and societal norms.