Saturday, July 08, 2017

Book tells how journalists can make best use of RTI

Press Trust of India: New Delhi: Saturday, July 08, 2017.
Conceptualise the idea; don't question, just seek information; a no doesn't always mean no; be patient, be persistent - these are some dos and don ts a book prescribes for journalists on taking the RTI route for their stories.
In "Journalism through RTI: Information Investigation Impact", senior journalist Shyamlal Yadav tells how the transparency tool has come in handy for scribes in getting information that otherwise would have been almost impossible to unearth despite legal provisions.
Using the storyline approach, Yadav, through his own experiences, unravels how news was collected, how the stories evolved, and how the subject was followed up keeping an eye on the rightful impact.
He, however, is of the view that though the RTI Act has given the media an opportunity to unearth the mismanagement of public money and expose the misdeeds of public servants, in general it has so far not been successful in doing that as effectively as it should have.
The author says public authorities have already learnt how to deny information, claiming exemptions using various circulars of government departments and court orders.
"Moreover, they quite often give out confusing information, or information worded in such a way that it cannot be understood," the book, published by Sage, says.
Few other suggestions by Yadav for journalists to make the best use of RTI are: Try all public authorities concerned for same information, get familiar with PIOs and follow up.
He also writes about how RTI applications revealed details of foreign travels of many ministers and bureaucrats, corruption cases against top officers and personnel in personal staff of parliamentarians.
"Foreign travels of ministers became a talking point in media because of the RTI-based stories and their follow-up stories. If the RTI Act was not there, it would have been very difficult, if not impossible, to bring out these facts and figures from government records," the book says.