Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Media engagement must for RTI to flourish in JK:Wajahat

Rising Kashmir: Srinagar: Wednesday, July 26, 2017.
In order to flourish Right To Information (RTI) Act in J&K, speakers Tuesday in an awareness workshop opined that “media engagement” is a must to bridge the decade's old communication gap between public and Government.
“Of course RTI Act is challenging in JK. The motive of the law which was enacted in March 2009 was to meet the public anger and grievances and give that a way out,” Chairperson Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative (CHRI) Wajahat Habibullah said.
The awareness workshop titled using RTI as a tool for better reporting was organised by J&K RTI movement in association with CHRI, an independent and non-profit international non-government organisation at IMPA Srinagar.
Wajahat who is the former Chief Information Commissioner asked the press to realise their responsibilities and use the instrument (RTI) for the benefit of the public.
“Media engagement is a must to flourish Right to Information Act and make democracy effective in the state,” he said.
He said the law is a major outlet for providing solutions to the concerns and grievances of the people.
“The communication between government and public has remained weak since decades. However, it was restored to a large extent but it is still not strong,” said Wajahat.
In the workshop, he said people are using the law but it hasn’t yet made dramatic advancements in the state.
“RTI provides an outlet and a means to reach to the government and till now the biggest achievement is that the law has been implemented not its outcomes,” he said.
Saying that the democratic structure hasn’t been able to function properly he said that there are still loop holes in the system itself adding, “The mistrusted feeling can be addressed by the RTI.”
He also said the law is challenging in the state which could in the long run help to meet the communication gaps between government and public.
On the occasion director Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative, Sanjoy Hazarika said that there is a dire need to unearth the realities and highlight the issues faced by RTI activists.
“Media also has a role to reflect the voice of voiceless pertaining to RTI. It can be used to highlight these scandals. These issues matter a lot to the public,” said the director who is also a human rights activist recognised internationally for designing and developing innovative strategies for inclusive health.
He said most of the RTI application filed in the state in the past were about the land acquisitions and property related disputes.
Sanjoy who is also journalist and a film maker said there are a number of active land mafias in Kashmir which can be exposed by obtaining information and putting it to the public to make the government accountable.
The speakers said RTI could be used to trace the weaknesses in the administration by documentation.
“People also have to come forward and remain vigilant and use the instrument to make the government accountable.”
The workshop was attended by journalists and RTI activists.
“Reporters use RTI very rarely to obtain the information because there is no dearth of stories in the valley,” journalists said and asked the speakers to hold a work for journalists so that they use the instrument to report the stories.
Deputy Editor of, Nitin Sethi said that RTI is a tool for investigative journalism and fact-based reporting.
He said whenever there is any kind of wrong in the application reply the information providers always blame the system for that not the individuals.
“Whenever there are any kind embezzlements, RTI activists should put that in public domain. There are chances of black mailing even among the government officials,” he said.
In the programme, Venkatesh Nayak of CHRI presented a case study titled “Use of RTI by the media abroad” which highlighted a number of cases which were highlighted with the help of the law.
“The more an activist shows transparency the more they would able to expose,” he said.
The J&K Government enacted the Jammu and Kashmir Right to Information ACT (JKRTI) in March 2009.
The Act emerged as a powerful tool for civil society to promote transparency and hold those in power accountable.
The Right to Information Act, 2005 has helped to expose some of the most infamous scams in the history of India.