The International Federation of Journalists welcomes the formal notification of the right to information law in the official gazette of Bangladesh on October 20, and endorses the opinion of diverse organisations representing the media community in Bangladesh that the exceptions under the law should be used sparingly.
The Bangladesh Right to Information (RTI) law specifies a twenty-day time frame for all public authorities and other bodies covered by it the law to provide information requested by citizens. However, in matters involving the right to life and liberty, the authorities concerned would be obliged to release the information requested within forty-eight hours.
“We regard this as a significant acknowledgment of the rights to life and liberty as the cornerstones of a constitutional order”, said the IFJ Asia-Pacific.
“However, we are aware that the exceptions granted to no fewer than eight security and intelligence agencies may dilute the salutary impact of this measure”.
The IFJ also believes that in cases involving media investigations of corruption and malfeasance by public authorities, a shorter time-frame than twenty days may be considered for releasing information.
These apart, the IFJ notes that the RTI ordinance provides for flexibility in fixing the fee an applicant would have to pay and for entirely waiving the fee in the case of certain categories of applicants.
The IFJ urges the government and the information commission that will be set up under the law to pay special attention to the media’s capacity to pay given the media landscape in Bangladesh, with its coexistence between very large and very small organisations with very different financial capabilities.
“We urge the Government to consider a possible fee waiver for journalists seeking to report on issues of urgent public importance.”
The IFJ calls on the Government to ensure the new laws on public access to information become widely recognised and enforced in order for the media to play its role in the electoral process that will return Bangladesh to civilian, democratic rule.
For further information contact IFJ Asia-Pacific on +612 9333 0919
The IFJ represents over 600,000 journalists in 120 countries