Bureaucracy, media, civil society, citizens need to be pro active on RTI
Coordinator, Media Ethics and Laws, IPI
The 1st National Convention on the Right to Information (RTI) held in Kathmandu Nepal from 28 to 29 March 2011, through its Kathmandu Declaration. The declaration urged the government and its bureaucracy, political parties, civil society, media sector and citizens to be proactive in practicing the RTI Act 2007.
Considering also the Universal Declaration on Democracy (UDD-Clause 21) which says "Democracy presupposes freedom of opinion and expression; this right implies freedom to hold opinions without interference, and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers”.
Acknowledging the Delhi Declaration of April 2010 wherein a South Asian regional gathering on RTI set a number of agendas as Nepal's immediate priorities including ''ensuring RTI as fundamental right in upcoming Constitution, empowering National Information Commission, making arrangement of nodal agency in the Executive, reforming RTI regulations and promoting collaboration among Government, civil society and the media".
The Kathmandu Declaration has expressed its commitment to reinvigorating the RTI Act, which so far remains scantily practiced. Apart from recommending certain measures, it has decided to set up a monitoring committee to see if or how the RTI is being used.
The 150 participants of the Convention represented not only the media sector but also policy makers, bureaucracy, NGOs, INGOs, political parties, civil societies and RTI activists from all the eight SAARC member countries. The program is the first of its kind in Nepal.
President Dr. Ram Baran Yadav had inaugurated the Convention while the Constituent Assembly Chairperson Subhas Chandra Nembang was invited as the Chief Guest was the chief guest of closing ceremony of the convention. Among others, Chief Information Commissioner, M Zamir (Bangladesh) said that the media should play a cooperative role in completion of the constitution writing and the peace process. Chairman of the Freedom Forum, Taranath Dahal, World Bank representative Bikram Chand and Chief of the Information Commission of Bangladesh, Muhammad Zamir shed light on the objectives of RTI. The advisory group will meet twice a year and create massive awareness writing features, articles, interviews, talks shows and others on RTI. The RTI is a tool for democracy, and the rights of the people and country, said Chief information Commissioner of Nepal, Vinay Kasajoo.
Organized by the Freedom Forum and funded by the World Bank, the Convention broadly discussed the problems and possible measures in practicing the RTI Act. Most of the participants had stressed on the proactive role of the mass media in implementing the RTI Act while some of them also emphasized on the transparency of investments in the mass media for gaining moral ground to apply the RTI for accessing information from other sources.