In Special Consultative Status with the UN Economic & Social Council

International Right to Know Day – 28 September 2010

International Right to Know Day was established by access to information advocates from around the globe. It was first celebrated on 28 September 2003, and 2010 will see the 8th International Right to Know Day.

The aim of Right to Know Day is to raise awareness of every individual’s right of access to government-held information: the right to know how elected officials are exercising power and how the tax-payers’ money is being spent.

Communication is Your Right

Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights reads: “Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; this right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers.” On December 10, 1948 the United Nations adopted The Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Today in 2010, more than 60 years later, we are dealing with entire groups of people who don’t have access to factual news and information in order to better their lives, community and country and make a positive impact in this world.

Corporate media censors people’s opinions and appeases sponsors rather than disseminating information in the public interest. We ask the United Nations to consider the destructive consequences that corporate media consolidation has on universal communication and the solutions to every problem the UN seeks to solve in their Millennium Development Goals. It is crucial that people are empowered to fully express themselves through all communication mediums. Right now most mainstream sources of news and information have the sole purpose of entertaining and advertising to the public.

Our communication mediums are vital and precious forums of dialogue that everyone needs to access, in order to serve the public interest. We also see the control of repressive governments who do not allow journalists the freedom to investigate and report as equally destructive to human communication. In Iran, Burma, North Korea and many other countries, repressive regimes do not allow journalists to freely investigate and report human rights abuses.

The full extent of the abuses are unknown due to a stranglehold on journalism. The people of the world need universal, uncensored access to the internet as well as the liberty to impart information through it. According to Internet World Stats only 26.6% of the world’s population use the internet. According to Internet for Everyone, in America “only 35% of homes with less than $50,000 in annual income have a high-speed internet connection. Moreover, nearly 20 million Americans live in areas that are not served by a single broadband provider; tens of millions more live in places where there is just a single provider of high-speed Internet service.” We, the undersigned and under-heard, petition the United Nations to take a closer look at Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and critically analyze the state of communication in our world.

We hope that the United Nations will re-evaluate their commitment to and advocate for the importance of Article 19, so that people everywhere can truly exercise their right to have their voices resonate throughout the world. for more info:

The right to information is a constitutional right backed by the UN. Since the inception, BNNRC has been working on promotion of 9 principles of article 19 and use and potentials of RTI especially for the people of the remote areas and disadvantaged communities from 2000.

As a consequence of the long-term advocacy, an eight-member high-level committee headed by the Joint Secretary (Development) of the Information Ministry prepared the draft of the Right to Information (RTI) Ordinance 2008 in February 2008. The government put the draft on the website of the Information Ministry on March 4 2008 to collect public opinion on it till the Information Ministry submitted it to the cabinet on June 18 when it was approved in principle.

The draft had 27 articles on the objective of the ordinance, methods of information dissemination, how to seek or disclose information, exemptions from disclosure, formation of the information commission and punishment for not disclosing information.
The Right to Information Ordinance, 2008 (RTI) came into effect with the government publishing a gazette notification Monday, on 20 October, 2008. However, people will have to wait 90 working days before they can use the law to get information. Within the 90 working days, an information commission will be formed for proper execution of the law and resolving public complaints regarding information.

All preparation for releasing information under the law would be made within these 90 days. Even though at first six security and intelligence agencies were kept outside the purview of the ordinance, the gazette shows eight agencies. The agencies are National Security Intelligence, Directorate General of Forces Intelligence, Defense Intelligence Unit, Criminal Investigation Department of police, Special Security Force, intelligence cell of National Board of Revenue.

The Special Branch of Police and intelligence unit of Rapid Action Battalion were added later. However, if the information is related to corruption and violation of human rights in these agencies, they will have to provide the information within 30 days.

The ordinance classifies information which may pose threat to the security, integrity and sovereignty of Bangladesh, obstruct law enforcement or incite any offence, endanger public security or impede due judicial process of a pending case, affect any criminal investigation, be prejudicial to the special rights of the Parliament, documents including summaries to be placed before the cabinet, or the council of advisers and information relating to discussions and decisions of such meetings.

Within 60 days of promulgation of the ordinance all public, autonomous and statutory organizations and other private institutions run on government or foreign funding that have been brought under the new law will nominate an officer-in-charge for each of the unit to provide information.

The information ministry will form a five-member selection committee soon to recommend candidates for the job of chief information commissioner and information commissioners to the president. It will recommend two candidates for each post.

A judge of the Appellate Division of the Supreme Court, nominated by the chief justice, will head the selection committee that will also have the cabinet secretary as a member. The Speaker of the parliament would nominate a member each from the treasury bench and the opposition bench and the government would nominate a representative of eminent citizens for the selection committee.

The information commission will consist of a chief information commissioner and two commissioners, at least one of them will be a woman. It will have its headquarters in Dhaka and in case of necessity would be able to establish offices anywhere in Bangladesh. The information commission will lay down guidelines to be followed by the authorities for publication and publicity of information and obtaining information. Every authority shall prepare and publicize a list of information which will be supplied free of cost.

People will have to apply for information either in writing or through electronic media or through email and will have to pay fees for applying and for the information where applicable. However, the authorities may exempt an individual or a class of individuals or any other class from paying such fees.

The government in consultation with the information commission and by notification in official gazette may fix the fees and if needed the price of information. The officer-in-charge of providing information upon receiving a request will provide the information within 20 working days. However, if more than one unit or authority is involved, the information will be provided within 30 working days. If the officer-in-charge fails to provide the information, he will inform the applicant the causes in writing within 10 working days.

If the sought information is linked to life and death, arrest or release from jail, the officer-in-charge will provide the preliminary information within 24 hours. The council of advisers on September 20 gave the final approval to the RTI ordinance. Against the backdrop of a longstanding demand, the caretaker government took the initiative to formulate the RTI as part of its institutional reforms.

After coming to the power of Awami League Government the ‘Parliamentary Standing Committee Bill (amended)’ of Information Ministry is presented to the parliament and the mentioned Bill is got the shape of law on 29 March 2009.