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TI Bangladesh Celebrated 2019 Int’l Right to Know Day

TI Bangladesh observed 2019 International Right to Know (RTK) Day with great enthusiasm across the country. Besides holding youth led campaigns to encourage citizens about applying their rights to get information, TI Bangladesh also joined hands with the Information Commission, Bangladesh to observe the day. At local level, in 45 locations of the country, members of the Committees of Concerned Citizens (CCCs), YES, YES Friends and SWAJAN members observed the day with the local administration holding rallies, information fairs, human chains and discussion meetings. 
As this year marks the 10th year of the enactment of the Right to Information (RTI) Act in Bangladesh, this year’s celebration specially emphasized on the progress so far made and challenges to overcome in implementing the RTI Act. “Notable progress has been made during the first 10 years of the enactment of the law however it has not yet reached the expected level, albeit 10 years is not a big time to assess,” said Dr. Iftekharuzzaman, Executive Director, TI Bangladesh in a discussion meeting titled ‘Right to Information Act and fight against corruption; Progress in 10 years and way forward’ in the capital on 26 September.
Strategy-based short, medium and long term action plan involving stakeholders has to be taken for RTI’s implementation, said Dr. Zaman. Stressing on the concerted effort of the relevant stakeholders in encouraging citizens to apply the law, “We believe the law will play a significant role in establishing good governance and tackling corruption” hoped Dr. Zaman.
With the theme `Tothyer Odhikar, Shushashoner Hatiyar; Toththoi Shakti, durniti theke mukti’ (Right to information is a tool of good governance; Information is power to get rid of corruption), the month-long celebration also focused on ways to increase both demand and supply of information i.e. raise awareness of people and service providers on RTI, encourage pro-active disclosure of information by both public and private sector.
In an effort to strengthen the demand part, in the capital, TI Bangladesh organized a public awareness campaign across the capital for the enforcement of people’s right to information. Before the campaign, 110 selected Youth Engagement Support (YES) volunteers were exclusively trained through 5 day-long trainings in September on the significance of RTI law, how to file RTI application etc. On 19 September, hundreds of Dhaka-based YES members from 16 groups hold public campaigns in different places of the capital where the trained youth volunteers disseminated thousands of leaflets among the public and show interested people how to file the RTI application.
For the supply part of information, TI Bangladesh organized a day-long training workshop on the Role of Designated Officers (DOs) in Implementing RTI Act 2009 on 27th August 2019 at its Dhaka office which brought together 31 DOs of different public offices. Dr. Iftekharuzzaman inaugurated the training while Mr. Martuza Ahmed, Chief Information Commissioner, Information Commission Bangladesh was present at the concluding session. This joint initiative focused on how to share information proactively with the citizens and to strengthen institutional capacity for disclosure on demand.
As part of the celebration, TI Bangladesh participated in a rally organized by the Information Commission, Bangladesh in front of city’s BCS Admin Academy at Shahbagh on 28 September. The rally was inaugurated by the Information Minister Dr. Hasan Mahmud.  After the rally, a procession paraded different streets of the city. On the same day, TI Bangladesh also participated in an information fair organized by Information Commission at the national museum, inaugurated by the State Minister of the Ministry of Information Md. Murad Hassan. Chief Information Commissioner Murtaza Ahmed and Information Commissioner Suriya Begum ndc were also present at the event.
At the local level, TI Bangladesh inspired Committees of Concerned Citizens (CCCs) and Youth Engagement and Support (YES) groups also undertook a series of public awareness campaigns in partnership with local authorities and non-government institutions for enforcement of people’s right to information. With full support of the local administration, which was made possible after TIB's sustained advocacy, relevant government and non-government organizations set up stalls in information fairs. Awareness campaigns included rallies, human chains, street theatres, sticker campaign, advice and information desks, cultural programmes, seminars, discussion meetings and anti-corruption cartoon and photo exhibitions. Besides, different online campaigns were carried out in the social media.
Throughout the series of programmes during the celebration, TI Bangladesh placed 13 points recommendations including amendment of certain provisions of contradictory laws with RTI act and laws ensuring people’s right to information, speech and expression such as Digital Security Act; strengthen information commission; inclusion of business, political parties and media in the RTI act; ensure proactive disclosure by the government entities; change the culture of secrecy; ensure necessary legal protection of information seekers in the act etc.
TIB played an instrumental role in the enactment of the Right to Information Act 2009 adopted in the Parliament on 29 March 2009, which became operational in July 2009. TIB has been observing the RTK Day since 2006, as the first organization to do so in Bangladesh.