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On behalf of CCD Bangladesh, we would like to thanks and congratulate the AL government of the Bangladesh for passed the Right to Information (RTI) Bill 2009. Its good or bad- at now nothing to say about the Bill. But the people of the country will ever grateful to this government’s historic initiative. We would like to see the effective and successful implementation of the newly passed bill at every level in the country. But, before commence the implementation of the newly passed bill, mass people as well as relevant organisations should be aware and sensitize regarding the bill. Other ways this bill will also be failed just like many bills and ordinances that government have already developed. Editor Note

Right To Information (RTI) bill passed

The House yesterday passed the much-awaited bill to continue people's right to information, incorporating a parliamentary body's recommendation to limit a few organisations' absolute authority to refuse to divulge information.

As per the provisions of the bill, all organisations registered under the law of the land will be bound to provide citizens with information on matters of public interests.

Organisations that enjoy legal coverage to keep some information undisclosed will have to take permission of the information commission to deny information sought, the parliamentary standing committee on information ministry recommended in its scrutiny report on the bill.

The bill had proposed continuing the provision for blanket immunity to such organisations regarding disclosure of information on some specific matters.

As per a provision of the bill, organisations are not bound to provide information that might threaten the country's security, integrity and sovereignty, confidential information received from any foreign government, advanced information on the changes in tax, VAT and budget, matters under trial and investigation and summary prepared for cabinet meetings etc.

Also incorporated in the bill was another recommendation on constituting the information commission within 90 days of the act's taking effect.

All but three provisions of the bill were given retrospective effect from October 20, 2008; the three provisions, which deal with seeking information through email and disposal of objections and appeals filed by people seeking remedy after being denied information, will take effect from next July.

In response to long-standing demand, the last caretaker government promulgated the Right to Information Ordinance last year, but it ceased to have effect as it was not ratified within the specified timeframe.

Information Minister Abul Kalam Azad, who placed the bill on February 25, yesterday proposed passage of the bill.

[Sources: The Daily Start, 30 March 2009]

Information Is Power: ARTICLE 19 mass awareness campaign on RTI

ARTICLE 19, Sushashoner Jonno Pracharavijan (SUPRO) and its network organisations have launched a major mass awareness campaign on the right to information (RTI) in 20 districts of the country, including the 12 most environmentally vulnerable coastal areas of Bangladesh.

The campaign includes a series of local level activities such as debates on RTI issues by school and college students, workshops and meetings with local level public officials, and rickshaw parades in district towns displaying rickshaw plates with messages and slogans such as ”Information is Power” and “Free information is the key to development” and others promoting the new RTI Law in Bangladesh.

With the participation of over three thousand students, the debating competitions generated huge interest amongst students, teachers, parents, and members of the school management committees on the right to information, its importance and links with good governance and access to public services.

For instance, students in the Bhabaniganj High School in the district of Noakhali, Laxmipur sub-district debated the need for greater access to information on local level issues in the education department. These included the need for transparency on registration fees and on government scheme for the subsidised distribution of education materials. Young boys and girls participated in the competitions with great enthusiasm. One such female student said: “This competition is an empowering expression for promoting free flow of information.” Another competitor commented that “freedom of expression was at the heart to our movement for independence”.

Tahmina Rahman, Director of ARTICLE 19 Bangladesh notes: “ARTICLE 19 and our partners in Bangladesh, believe that raising massive public awareness on the right to seek, receive and impart information, to increase demand for information is the first precondition for the effective implementation of the Right to Information Law in Bangladesh.”

These events and activities are the start of a year-long campaign promoting the right to information amongst the most vulnerable populations in Bangladesh. Throughout the year, ARTICLE 19 and its partners will organise events and promotional activities as part of its programme of work on access to information for greater participation and government accountability.

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Last update: 10 January, 2010

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