WHAT IS Right to Information / Freedom of Information?

Understanding the concept
Any citizen has the right to access information and record held by public bodies, subject to some restrictions. FOI refers to a situation in which citizens can easily seek and receive information from the government department and public bodies.

In 1946, during the first session, the UN General Assembly adopted Resolution 59 (1), which stated: “Freedom of Information is a fundamental human right … the touchstone of all the freedoms to which the UN is consecrator”. This was followed by the Universal Declaration on Human Rights in 1948.

The concept of FOI includes, but is not limited to:
  • The public has the right to have access to information that the government (or other powerful institutions) hold about them.
  • The public has the right to see and hear what is n in the legislature, courts, and other public bodies.
  • The public has the right to know what has been decided for them.

This list becomes bigger if we enlist all different types of information that the public is entitled to – finance, environment, health, and education, to name a few.

Governments should keep and maintain record of information under different departments/institutions. This record is vital for decision making, revenue generation, taxation, conducting elections, land succession, etc. More importantly, such information is important for transparency in government functions and accountability of those people who make decisions, which affect the people. Here, let us think of some situations in which inability of citizens to access information can cause many problems:
  • What would happen to the life of people, if contaminated bottled water is being sold in the market, and people do not know which brands are fit for human consumption and which are not?
  • What would happen if a corrupt government official continues to spend public money for his personal use, and nobody takes notice of his actions because no information is available how the public money is being spent in his organization?
  • Will it make any difference if I know the amount of funds available for local development schemes and procedure for applying to it?

If you request information about any of the above situations, you are not sure whether you get it or not in absence of an FOI law. If an official provides you desired information, he or she would do it as a great favor. However, if you are not provided with such information, you cannot take a legal action unless an FOI law is present. Therefore, it is very important that an FOI law exists, which entitles the citizens to access information as a legal right.
"A popular government without popular information or the means of acquiring it, is but a prologue to a farce or a tragedy or perhaps both" - James Madison

FOI - News

Total number of Patients Admitted in 2013 in Liaquat University Hospital, Jamshoro, Hyderabad were 62,792 out of which 4,880 died. (02-12-2014) [FOI Request]

Total number of Patients Admitted in 2013 in Civil Hospital, Karachi were 65,925 out of which 4,014 died. (05-12-2014) [FOI Request]

Total number of Patients Admitted in 2013 in Sindh Government Hospital, Liaquatabad, Karachi were 18,488 out of which 27 died. (01-12-2014) [FOI Request]

The KP Information Commission has so far received 148 complaint for requests, out of which 74 have been disposed of during the stipulated time (16-Oct-2014)

In response to an FOI Complaint on non-provision of information relating to matters dealing with Karachi Cantonment Board Charged Parking, the Federal Ombudsman has given a ruling that as this is a mater dealing with the defence of Pakistan, therefore he can not take cognizance of the complaint. (22-04-2014)

Total number of Patients Admitted in 2013 in JPMC, Karachi were 61,530, out of which 5,152 died. (25-08-2014) [FOI Request]

Total number of Patients Admitted in 2013 in Qatar Hospital, Karachi were 16,158, out of which 177 died. (28-08-2014) [FOI Request]
UN Principles for Freedom of Information

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