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Right to Information: Speakers Press For Building Capacity of Journalists

Punjab University Human Rights Chair, Institute of Communication Studies organizes seminar to highlight the importance of investigative journalists having easy access to public documents

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LAHORE– Speakers at seminar on access to information called upon the need to enhance capacity of journalists for better utilization of Right to Information Act  (RIA) in investigative journalism.

They were addressing a seminar organized by the Punjab University Human Rights Chair, Institute of Communication Studies at Al Raazi Hall here on Monday.

Senator Waleed Iqbal, PU Vice Chancellor Prof Niaz Ahmed, senior journalists Mr Fahad Hussain, Mr Abdul Malick, Incharge ICS Dr Noshina Saleem, PU Human Rights Chair Incharge Dr Bushra Rehman, Chief Information Commissioner Punjab Mahboob Qadir, Honorary Norwegian Consular General Lahore Naveen Fareed, UNESCO representative Maliha Shah, Assistant Professor Fahad Mahmood, many other journalists and a large number of students were present on the occasion.

Addressing the seminar, Senator Waleed Iqbal said that Article 19 of the Constitution of Pakistan ensured freedom of speech and expression with a very few restrictions. He said that we must take care of others’ reputation while exercising our right of freedom of expression.

He said that the true spirit of right to information rules and regulations was to release information pertaining to wrongdoings in departments.

PU VC Prof Niaz Ahmed said that PU issued all public information on its websites as access to information led to transparency.

He said that the good governance, merit and law prevailed in every operation of the university. He said that the institution which was not performing could not survive in this age of competition. He said that PU was the first university to establish Human Rights chair.

He urged the newsmen to highlight positive activities of Pakistan to establish good repute of the country. Senior journalist Fahad Hussain said that media industry was facing two types of crises i.e. financial problems and working capacity of journalists.

He said that unless we enhance capacity of journalists to utilize Right to Information Act, we could not benefit from RTI Act in true manner. He said that media was showing what audience was demanding. He said that the pressures on media had stopped its natural growth and the gap between the expectations of audience and delivery of journalists had been widened.

He said that we need to evolve our curriculum of journalism subject at national level. Senior journalist Abdul Malick said that the rating saga had badly affected the content and quality of TV programs.

He said that over population was one of the biggest issues being faced by the country but if we do a program on it, we would receive zero rating. He said that there must be serious punishments over violations of RTI Act for better implementation of the Act.

He said that journalism was difficult but good profession and newcomers must adopt it with good intentions. He said that nobody stood behind you when you get retaliation from Mafias on your investigative stories against their interest. Chief Information Officer Mahboob Qadir said that RTI Act was a silent revolution. He said that right to information was equal to right to life.

He said that the basic aim of RTI Act was to ensure good governance and eliminate corruption. He said that there was need to create awareness about RIT Act among the people. He said that there was need to hire regular public information officers at all institutions. He said that Punjab Information Commission had disposed off 1600 new complaints and around 1700 pending complaints in a year.

PU Human Rights Chair Incharge Dr Bushra Rehman said that RTI Act had important role to play in investigative journalism. She said that in the age of digital media we face the challenge of misunderstanding, half-cooked or false information.

She said that facts must be verified and academia and working journalists must join hands to cope with the challenges in the field.

Later, panel discussion was organized among the participants where senior journalists and students exchanged knowledge, ideas and experiences and discussed various issues in the field.

In panel discussion, senior political correspondent Daily Dawn and visiting faculty member Zulqernain Tahir, senior journalist from News on Sunday Shahazada Irfan Malik, and other journalists Muhammad Usman, Abdul Rauf, Ajmal Jami, Taseer Mustafa, Huma Sadaf, Asim Naseer, Sabookh Syed, Suleman Abid, Tahir Saeed, Rab Nawaz Ahmad Khan, Iram Ghani, Shaista Mairaj, Turhab Asghar, Navid Nasim, Luqman Sheikh, Farhan Ahmad participated.— PRESS RELEASE