Are You Cognizant of Your Right to Information?

Are You Cognizant of Your Right to Information?

Freedom of information and right to information, which are used interchangeably, the narrowest definition is, “the right of each individual to inspect or copy documents held by government bodies” (“The Right of Access to Information”2). More specifically, the Right to Information (RTI) laws ‘provide a fundamental right for any person to access information held by government bodies’ (Baniser 3).Although Right to information and Right to Privacy might seem incompatible but both complement each other because along with giving citizens the right to have access to information, the government ensures the privacy of people’s personal information. Promoting individual rights to protect themselves and hold governments accountable are requisites for democracy. The law is an essential tool in detecting corruption, mismanagement and any issue that hinders the efficiency of government bodies. As Pakistan claims to be a democratic state so the struggle of implementing an act on the right to information in the country started in 1990(Mohsin, 2017, para.2).Generally, in democratic states a meaningful interaction between the citizens and government requires well-informed nation and one of the ways towards such discussions includes right to information. Therefore, RTI was implemented in Pakistan through the decree of 18th Amendment and its called Right to Information Act2013. The state formalized the right of information in 2002 in the form of “Freedom of Information Ordinance 2002” .Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Right to Information Act 2013 and the Punjab Transparency and Right to Information Act 2013 enacted the laws. Meanwhile, it has remained replica of the Ordinance 2002 in Sindh as, “Sindh Freedom of Information Act 2006” and “Baluchistan Freedom of Information Act 2005”. The irony remains when we as citizens of Pakistan are unaware of our rights. By being ignorant of our fundamental rights we are unable to form an opinion. It is therefore of paramount importance that we educate ourselves about laws for the greater good of our nation. As a well-informed nation we can play our due role in the development of our country, be that material or be that socio economic. In order for us to be the responsible citizens, we need to, first of all, sensitize ourselves about laws and acts. Since Right of Access to Information is a nascent act, it requires to be propagated to common masses. There is simply a need for citizenry to realize that they are empowered. They can ask any public office for certain information that directly or indirectly affects the community. To acquire certain desirable information, there are following steps that one should follow. The first step is to identify problems in your surroundings or anywhere across the country then file information request to the concerning government bodies under the article 19A of the constitution of Pakistan. While writing the RTI application, address the Public Information Officer of the respective government department. Start by writing the subject that should be compact. Try not to ask vague questions in the application. Asking for public documents instead of asking for reason as to why has something been done and likewise. Finally, submit the application through speed post, registered post, and hand delivery or through CAPIOs/Designated Post Offices. Don’t forget to get the proof of submission of your application for future use. If the RTI applicant gets unsatisfactory response or no response at all within thirty days from the date of application, applicant has a right to file an appeal. Legal work is usually daunting for some people because of the complications and stringent guidelines. Practicing right of information act is not gruesome but easy. As a tax payable denizen of a country it is one’s right to keep a check on the government’s spending. It is our responsibility and is expected of us that we should observe the government bodies in our localities and keep a record of things. Any government educational or health institution in poor conditions can be asked for the budget allocation and its spending through RTI. This will not only give us a sense of being an empowered nation but also held public bodies accountable None of the citizens should remain incognizant of this right because everyone has to play his/her role to improve the culture of accountability and transparency, which would reduce corruption and mismanagement in the future. > Work Cited: Mohsin, Aminah. “Right to Information.” Pakistan Today, Pakistan Today, 2017, www.pakistantoday.com.pk/2017/09/24/right-to-information/. Banisar, David. “The Right to Information and Privacy: Balancing Rights and Managing Conflicts.” World Bank Institute,The International Bank for Reconstruction and Development /TheWorld Bank, 2011, www.ip-rs.si/fileadmin/user_upload/Pdf/Publikacije_ostalih_pooblascencev/Right_to_I nformation_and_Privacy__banisar.pdf. “The Right of Access to Information.” Access to Information Programme, www.aip- bg.org/pdf/concept.pdf.