Journalists urged to use RTI for investigative reporting and countering fake news

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KARACHI: The Sindh Transparency and Right to Information Act, 2016, was passed by the Sindh Assembly in March 2017 for promoting transparency in the working of provincial authorities by securing citizens’ access to information. A 2-day seminar was concluded by the Friedrich Nauman Foundation for Freedom (FNF-Pakistan) on Sunday. The main objective of the seminar was to capacitate journalists on the use of Right to Information law for investigative reporting and countering fake news.

While addressing the participants, Muhammad Anwar, Head of Programs and Administration at FNF Pakistan, said journalists can promote investigative journalism through the use of RTI. This ultimately strengthens the credibility of their stories, he further added.

While sharing the legislative landscape of RTI in Pakistan, Syed Raza Ali, RTI activist, explained there are five RTI laws in Pakistan.

He further explained, Being the 4th pillar of democracy, journalists are the representatives of the people in terms of using RTI Act for investigating and publicizing information of public interest. Gathering information through RTI Act, especially young journalists, can contribute to ensuring transparency in public, professional, and social spheres.

Provincial public bodies are legally bound to provide the requested information within 15 working days under the Sindh Transparency and Right to Information Act 2016. In case the public bodies fail to provide the requested information, citizens can lodge complaints before the Sindh Information Commission, Ali added.

The Sindh Information Commission is an independent appellate authority that has the power to direct, summon, and penalize officials who obstruct the flow of information, he further added.

While talking about critical thinking to counter fake news, it is important for every journalist to know how to check facts and report, said Mr. Ubaid Ur Rehman, a rights activist.

It is a time for news media to tack more closely to professional standards and ethics, to avoid the publishing of unchecked information. Investing in critical thinking is more important than ever, as it helps to limit the risks of disinformation posed by the advent of technologies such as the internet and artificial intelligence, he further added.

Ms. Mangla Sharma, former parliamentarian, concluded the seminar by stating that the media should adhere to media ethics instead of focusing on breaking news to counter fake news.

More than 30 journalists, rights activists and students attended the seminar and commended the efforts of FNF-Pakistan for organizing such a seminar and called on the journalists’ organizations to hold similar sessions for young journalists in order to promote investigative reporting.

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