Dhaka, 29 October 2019: Speakers today called upon the Government to accelerate actions involving all stakeholders to fulfill the true spirit of the Right to Information (RTI) Act 2009, which is to ensure transparency and accountability at all levels.
According to the Constitution, ‘All powers of the Republic belong to the people’, and it is necessary to ensure right to information for the empowerment of the people by the State. It is, therefore, necessary to ensure the right to information of the people and establish accountability and transparency of all public and private institutions’, they said during a daylong RTI Convention in Dhaka.
With the support from the World Bank and the UK aid, RTI Forum Bangladesh organised RTI Convention 2019 to celebrate the 10 years of enactment of the RTI Act 2009. The RTI Convention was organised under the theme of ‘Empowering people through information for shared prosperity’. It was a congregation of more than 300 RTI government designated officials, activists and practitioners from different parts of the country who shared their knowledge, learning and experiences.
The inaugural session was chaired by MJF’ Executive Director and Convener of RTI Forum Bangladesh Ms. Shaheen Anam. Ms. Anam highlighted the background of RTI Forum’s contribution in galvanizing public support for the enactment of RTI Act in 2009 and the role that NGO’s are now playing for its implementation. Speaking as Chief Guest of the Inaugural Session, Mr. Md. Fazle Rabbi Miah MP, Honourable Deputy Speaker of Bangladesh Parliament said that access to information is the civic and democratic right of every citizen. Adding that the government is committed to ensuring the people’s right of access to information, the Deputy Speaker observed that the right of people and the mass media to get information has been ensured.
Ms. Judith Herbertson, DFID Country Representative Bangladesh, Dr. Mercy Miyang Tembon, Country Director, the World Bank, Bangladesh and Bhutan and Mr. Martuza Ahmed, Chief Information Commissioner, Information Commission also spoke at the inaugural session.
DFID Country Representative Bangladesh, Judith Herbertson, congratulated the Government of Bangladesh, the citizens, human rights groups, NGOs, and media for all the progress made on the 10th anniversary of the Right to Information (RTI) ACT: “Bangladesh’s RTI law is recognized as being among the most progressive RTI legislations worldwide. Over the last few years, UK Aid has been delighted to provide support to the government and civil society for RTI Act implementation. Making good quality information accessible to the poorest and most remote communities and raising awareness on transparent and accountable information as a core building block for democracy are on the forward agenda.”
Chief Guest of the concluding session Mr. Abdul Mannan, MP, Minister of Planning emphasized on concerted efforts of all to realize the full potential of the RTI Act. “While the progress made so far is laudable, these achievements need to be sustained and scaled-up. This will eventually result in increased transparency, enhanced accountability and improved service delivery to the citizens of Bangladesh’, he said.
Dr. George Addo Larbi, Practice Manager, Governance, the World Bank, Mr. K.M Abdus Salam, Director General, NGO Affairs Bureau, Ms. Suraiya Begum, ndc, Information Commissioner, Information Commission and Ms. Aroma Dutta, MP and Member, Parliamentary Standing Committee, Ministry of Social Welfare, also spoke in the concluding session. A declaration [Bangla | English] was read out in the concluding session urging the Government to implement various recommendations of the RTI Convention.
Dr. Iftekharuzzaman, Executive Director, Transparency International Bangladesh (TIB) chaired the plenary session on ‘Sharing findings of RTI Survey 2019 [File-1 | File-2]’. A panel comprising Dr. Rezwan-ul-Alam, Director, MJF, Mr. Hasibur Rahman, Executive Director, MRDI and Mr. Monzurul Haque, Chair and MD, OrgQuest presented the findings. Dr. Md. Abdul Hakim, Director, Information Commission and Ms. Rasheda K Chowdhury, Executive Director of CAMPE participated in the discussion.
Professor Sadeka Halim, Dean, Faculty of Social Sciences, University of Dhaka chaired a parallel session on ‘Using RTI for strengthening social safety net programmes for the benefit of marginalized communities’. Ms. Ruhi Naz, Coordinator, Research Initiative Bangladesh (RIB) presented on the topic while Mr. ABM Serajul Hossain, Chief Executive Officer (CEO), D-net and Dr. Nafeesur Rahman, Senior Expert on Disability were discussants.
Mr. Syed Ishtiaque Reza, Editor-in-Chief, Gazi Television chaired another parallel session on ‘Using ICT for mobilizing women, youth and media to promote RTI. Dr. Ananya Raihan, Chief Executive Officer, i-Social made a presentation on the topic where Mr. Hasibur Rahman, Executive Director, MRDI and Ms. Farida Yasmin, General Secretary, National Press Club were discussants.
Several recommendations were put forward: The Government was urged to review various targets set in the RTI Implementation Strategy. Information Commission was called upon to play greater role to increase public awareness about the law. CSOs and NGOs were urged to RTI in all their programmatic interventions. Media were advised to develop their own strategy to promote RTI while TV Channels were urged to run programmes throughout the year.
Media Contact: Ms. Shahana Huda, Senior Coordinator, Media, MJF