Close loopholes in RTI Ordinance: Speakers tell seminar on right to know
Speakers at a seminar yesterday called on all to extend cooperation in implementing the Right to Information (RTI) Ordinance 2008 for the greater benefit of the countrymen.
Welcoming the council of advisers' approval to the much-awaited ordinance, they said there are several loopholes in the proposed ordinance, which need to be closed in order to ensure maximum disclosure of information.
Newly floated Right to Information Forum organised the seminar titled 'Right to Information: Why at this moment?' at Brac Centre Inn in the city to mark the International Right to Know Day, which will be observed worldwide on September 28.
The right to information is a constitutional right backed by the UN and the approval of RTI Ordinance is a step towards realising this right, said Mahbubul Alam, a former information adviser who attended the programme as the chief guest.
Pointing out that there are many loopholes in the proposed ordinance, he said the ordinance covers up to upazila level, not up to union parishad level.
"We will bring these points to the attention of the elected government," he said, urging all to continue the movement for the right to information.
Terming the right to know the mother of all rights, the speakers demanded that a provision protecting the whistleblowers be included in the RTI law.
AK Mohammad Hossain, joint secretary of the law ministry, said the RTI legislation should have nine guiding principles including maximum disclosure of information, obligation to publish information, open governance, restricting the exemption instances, facilitating access to information and protecting the whistleblowers.
Dr Iftekharuzzaman, executive director of Transparency International Bangladesh, moderated the seminar presided over by Shaheen Anam, convenor of RTI Forum and executive director of Manusher Jonno Foundation which has been working for the enactment of the RTI act.
"All of our efforts should now be aimed at proper implementation of the RTI ordinance so that general people benefit from it," Shaheen Anam said and hoped that the next elected government will endorse the legislation in parliament.
After the ordinance is implemented, corruption will decline gradually and the transparency and accountability will help brighten the country's image, she said.
In his keynote paper, Barrister Tanjib-ul Alam said there are provisions in most existing laws, which support the right to information, but these provisions are not being used.
Prof Asif Nazrul, Prof Nazrul Islam, chairman of University Grants Commission, and Badiul Alam Majumder of Shushashoner Jonney Nagorik also spoke at the seminar. [Source: The Daily Star, Dhaka, 26 Sep 2008]
IPI Calls for Immediate Release of Bangladeshi Newspaper Editor
The International Press Institute (IPI), the global network of editors, media executives and leading journalists in over 120 countries, supports the demand put forward on 19 September by the editors of 14 national daily newspapers in Bangladesh, who urged the country's caretaker administration to immediately release Mohammad Atiqullah Khan Masud, editor of the national daily Janakantha.
"It is disturbing that Bangladesh's interim government, appointed to pave the way for the country's elections, is abusing its powers in order to limit criticism by the media," said IPI Director David Dadge. "Dr. Fakhruddin Ahmed, head of the caretaker administration, must acknowledge that the media's ability to report, as well as criticize, the activities of the government is a fundamental element in the coverage of the run-up to the elections."
Atiqullah Khan was among many journalists who, in January 2007, urged the newly-appointed interim government to take a clear stand in favour of press freedom and against censorship. He was arrested without warrant on 7 March 2007 under Section 16 of Bangladesh's Emergency Powers Rules 2007. Two days after his arrest, Atiqullah Khan was accused of "corruption", "criminal activities" and "carrying out propaganda against the caretaker government", according to news reports.
Following his arrest, Atiqullah Khan was denied bail and has since then been held in Dhaka Central Prison. Within a month of his imprisonment, two further cases were filed against Atiqullah Khan.
According to the statement issued on 19 September by the editors of the 14 national dailies, Atiqullah Khan is suffering from neurological problems, heart disease, intestinal disorder, kidney trouble and eye problems as a consequence of the poor prison conditions. He is now under treatment at Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujib Medical University Hospital. Atiqullah Khan's continued imprisonment also threatens to further destabilize his newspaper's already precarious financial situation.
IPI, the global network of editors, media executives and leading journalists, is dedicated to the furtherance and safeguarding of press freedom, the protection of freedom of opinion and expression, the promotion of the free flow of news and information, and the improvement of the practices of journalism.