Ruhi Naz

Right to information at home and abroad

The first case was brought to our attention by RTI activists promoting the law at the grassroots level in Bangladesh.

RTI is more than a right, it is a civic duty

Seeking information is not only a right of citizens, but also a civic duty.

Ask your party to commit to RTI

Two laws form the basis for citizens to affect governance.

Right to Information in Bangladesh: Are we on the right track?

To obtain the full potentials of the law, we must go beyond such perfunctory rituals and focus more on strategies to go ahead.

Right to information in the age of authoritarianism

As authoritarianism creeps in across the world, the ideals of participatory democracy and representative governance have taken a back seat once again in many countries.

The darker side of RTI in Bangladesh

Today, we turn away from the positive and encouraging side of the Right to Information movement in Bangladesh, depicted in our previous column (The Daily Star, April 16, 2022), to peer into the shadows.

Untold tales of RTI successes

Today, we present tales that have been gathered from ordinary Bangladeshis.

People's right to know v. Official secrecy: Can the former triumph?

The Information Commission of Bangladesh delivered a much-awaited decision on March 8, 2022, and a much-needed shot in the arm of the right to information (RTI) regime in Bangladesh.

Let’s not consign our RTI law to cold storage

The title of our column today is inspired by an editorial in Prothom Alo, a popular Bangla national daily in Bangladesh, published on February 5, 2022.

RTI can contribute to government accountability

Efforts to limit the ruler’s authority over the ruled is as old as human history. It is a subject that has occupied the minds of social thinkers and philosophers of all major civilisations since ancient times.

The RTI Act works

The importance of a robust Right to Information (RTI) regime for a healthy and vibrant democracy is universally recognised.

Success of the RTI Act relies on an effective Information Commission

The Right to Information (RTI) Act, 2009 is made of interlocking parts.

Active citizenship is also key to the success of RTI

Last month marked the International Right to Know Day. From the few seminars and webinars arranged on the occasion, it was evident that even 12 years after the Right to Information (RTI) Act was enacted in Bangladesh, we are still largely preoccupied with how to spread awareness about the law.

More citizens are exercising their right to information. We must keep it up.

he International Right to Know Day will be commemorated on September 28. By adopting Right to Information (RTI) or Freedom of Information (FOI) laws, governments recognise their citizens’ power to demand transparency and accountability about their work. Bangladesh enacted the Right to Information Act in 2009. How did that law fare last year?

How RTI regimes are faring in South Asia

The Covid-19 pandemic will be remembered for the colossal chaos it caused to governments as they grappled—and continue to do—with its catastrophic onslaught affecting lives and livelihoods across the globe.

Only ‘We, the People’ can unleash the full potential of RTI law

Bangladesh has long been known for the political activism of its citizens, ready to fight for their rights and defend their freedom.

Finding a balance between official secrecy and citizens’ right to information

“We see all governments as obscure and invisible,” said Sir Francis Bacon, English philosopher and statesman, in 1605.

Revisiting the role of RTI for sustainable development

We must not forget that we cannot bring good fortune for the people if our characters do not change! By rising above nepotism, corruption and self-deception, all of us have to be engaged in self-criticism, self-restraint, and self-purification.”

RTI: All three branches of government fall within its ambit

The deleterious impact of the Covid-19 pandemic on the operations of the Right to Information (RTI) Act has been much discussed in the last one year. We drew attention to it in several of our columns.

The widening range of RTI use in Bangladesh

Jamaluddin of Dinajpur had learnt at a training session that the Right to Information (RTI) Act 2009 of Bangladesh was enacted to provide a legal basis for citizens to exercise their rights as “owners of all powers of the Republic”.

How citizen engagement with RTI law is transforming lives

During the construction work of a regional highway in Dinajpur, local inhabitants were increasingly bothered by the dust it generated.

A clarion call for civil society to make the RTI Act a success

Most countries of the world have moved in the past 50 years from the age-old practice of government secrecy towards making their work largely accessible by the public through Right to Information (RTI) or Freedom of Information (FOI) legislation.

RTI in Bangladesh

Reva Rani of Taraganj Upazila of Rangpur District was determined to bring electricity to her home. But, all her efforts, including payment of “speed money”, failed.

We need an independent and neutral Information Commission

From its onset in early 2020, the Covid-19 pandemic has damaged trust in governments. As governments fumbled with different approaches, citizens’ distrust of them increased in tandem. Allegations of misinformation, disinformation and lack of information polluted the atmosphere.

International Right to Know Day must generate serious reflections by all sides

September is an important month for Right to Information (RTI) buffs all over the world. They undertake various activities during the month to commemorate the International Right to Know Day on September 28 with two key focus points.

Trust lost between governments and citizens during Covid-19 pandemic?

The relationship between governments and the people has been badly affected by the Covid-19 pandemic in many countries.

Transparency and accountability of government actions during Covid-19 pandemic

The Covid-19 pandemic will be recorded as one of the most consequential events in human history. A small part of that history will relate to how governments interacted with their populations in responding to the crisis.

RTI/FOI Acts: Another Victim of the Covid-19 Pandemic

One of the institutional casualties of the global Covid-19 pandemic is people’s right to information.

Learning from the UK’s experience

Our last column was focused on the multifarious use of the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) in the United States.

Using the right to information to improve the country

How has the global use of Right to Information (RTI) laws brought about important new developments and catalysed change? The Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) regime in the US is the perfect example to illustrate this story.

Engaging citizens to use the RTI law

Those who read this column regularly are aware of its two recurring themes.

Law needs RTI-defenders

The global excitement about Right to Information (RTI) appears to be on the wane. Instead of facilitating citizens’ role to monitor public work by accessing official documents, governments are resorting to procedural and other hurdles to curtail the reach of the law.

RTI law: Bridging the gap between promise and practice

The euphoria accompanying the fall of the Berlin Wall and the end of the Cold War era late last century was followed by an upsurge of democracy in the new republics and a resurgence in nominal democracies.

The growing maturity of RTI use in Bangladesh

Last month, the International Right to Know Day was an occasion for the champions of the Right to Information (RTI) Act in Bangladesh to show how the law helps to strengthen democracy and advance good governance.

RTI: How do we compare with the rest of the world?

With some 130 countries around the world having adopted Right to Information (RTI) laws, we now know a great deal about how citizens use this law in a variety of social, political and economic contexts—in as rich a variety of ways as there are cultures and peoples on this planet.

Is RTI Act becoming popular in Bangladesh?

You are really doing a great job,” said the Designated Officer (DO) of the District Social Welfare Office of Dinajpur. He was talking to a member of the public who had gone to his office to submit a Right to Information (RTI) request.

A healthy right-to-information regime is in everyone’s best interest

Funds stolen by political leaders. School supplies siphoned off by a contractor.

Let’s stand by our lone rangers: The role of RTI activists

When young Shovon moved to Dhaka from his village not very long ago, he went looking for ponds to bathe in. He discovered quite a few of them, spread all over the city.

Combatting bank loan defaults through Right to Information

Bank loan defaults and their harmful impacts on the economy are not matters of public concern in Bangladesh alone. It has agitated the public mind in neighbouring India for a long time. A recent directive of the Supreme Court of India has some lessons for Bangladesh.

Government starts to nurture the fledgling RTI regime

In recent weeks, two important government ministers—Law Minister Mr Anisul Huq, and Information Minister Mr Hasan Mahmud—have given vocal support to a fuller implementation of our national Right to Information (RTI) Act.

Government's 'zero-tolerance policy' against corruption

In her first address to the nation after being sworn in for her third consecutive term last month, Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina announced “zero tolerance for corruption” as a key policy of her new government. This was followed by the release of Transparency

Stop-and-go: Use of RTI in Bangladesh

International observers who follow global trends on the progress of transparency and accountability instruments, such as Right to Information (RTI) or Freedom of Information (FOI), which have witnessed phenomenal growth in the last three decades, are often asked if the laws have fared well in their new abodes with varying levels of democratisation.

Progress and regress of RTI in Bangladesh

As the Right to Information (RTI) regime nears completion of its first decade of existence, we asked a few scholars, advocates and users of the law for their views on its progress so far. Results were mixed.

The many uses of RTI: Our imagination is the limit

If liberty means anything at all, it means the right to tell people what they do not want to hear.” A slight tweak of this famous quotation from British writer George Orwell will make it equally appropriate for the right to information:

SDGs and The Right to Information: We can't have one without the other

The International Right to Know Day on September 28 was observed this year with much less enthusiasm in many countries. Though 90 percent of world population now live in countries where the Right to Information (RTI), or Freedom of Information (FOI), law exists, the promise of transparent and accountable governance presaged in the law remains a distant dream.

Of political parties, general elections and RTI in Bangladesh

A positive outcome of the contemporary trend towards authoritarian rule by democratically elected governments around the world is that it is providing a welcome boost to the limping Right to Information (RTI) or Freedom of Information (FOI) movements globally.

RTI Footprints in South Asia: Tapping its potential for public causes

Our region is well-known for its deep-rooted culture of official secrecy inherited from colonial times. So why the proliferation of a rigorous law that gives citizens a tool to probe their governments and restrain their arbitrary use of power? Nearly all countries in South Asia have now enacted a Right to Information (RTI) Act.

Has it lived up to the expectations?

Nine years ago this month, the RTI Act 2009 of Bangladesh was born. It came at a time when the entire nation was filled with a deep sense of relief and hope for change and reforms.

June 15, 2018
June 15, 2018

Why it's relevant for us and how it relates to RTI

In the days before May 25, email users all over the world were bombarded with a barrage of electronic messages updating them on something called the General Data Protection Regulations (GDPR). Observers claim that the number of messages dispatched by businesses throughout the world on the occasion might have surpassed those sent during Christmas or New Year. On that day, Europe became subject to the GDPR, a law aimed primarily at bringing outdated personal data laws across EU up to speed with the fast-moving digital era. GDPR has an impact far beyond Europe.

March 15, 2018
March 15, 2018

How RTI can help elect the best candidates

Political tension mount in most countries during election year. In Bangladesh, tension has already gripped the people and is likely to intensify before the general elections scheduled for December 2018.

February 15, 2018
February 15, 2018

Making police accountable

At his investiture last month, the new police chief of Bangladesh committed to making each police station truly a centre for welfare of the people.

December 15, 2017
December 15, 2017

RTI vs RTP: Is there a contradiction?

The disclosure of information on people's race or ethnicity during World War II caused one of the worst tragedies known to mankind. It led to secret denunciations and seizures, sending millions of friends and neighbours to labour and concentration camps and eventually to gas chambers.

November 15, 2017
November 15, 2017

From right to information to right to data

In late 1840s, London was hit by a vicious cholera epidemic. Health officials struggled to curb the spread until Dr John Snow painstakingly collected data on the location and history of each case and traced the source to specific water supplies in the city.

October 15, 2017
October 15, 2017

RTI Act: Are users getting smarter?

The use of RTI to seek redress for personal grievances is equally popular. RTI has been used by students appearing in various public service examinations to find out if they were fairly treated by the examiners. Whether the desired information is received or not, the applications alone help alert the authorities that their performance is being watched by citizens.

September 15, 2017
September 15, 2017

Putting people at the heart of development

Later this month, the world will mark the International Day for Universal Access to Information, hitherto known as International Right to Know Day.

August 13, 2017
August 13, 2017

Disclosure laws should be on citizens' agenda for the next elections

Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif's removal from office was the subject of much attention in Bangladesh and elsewhere. But buried within the story about political turmoil and the future of civilian rule in Pakistan was a story about leaked information and disclosure of assets.

July 15, 2017
July 15, 2017

Eight years old - How is the Right to Information Act faring?

"The freedom of a nation cannot be upheld by laws alone, but also by the light of the nation and knowledge of their use." These words by Anders Chydenius, a Swedish enlightenment thinker and politician of the eighteenth century, had set the ball rolling for the adoption of world's first freedom of information law in Sweden and Finland in 1766. Since then around 115 countries/territories have enacted similar transparency laws.

May 15, 2017
May 15, 2017

A new breed of truth seekers

There is a new breed of fans in South Asia: fans of the Right to Information (RTI) laws in our region. These are passionate, almost fanatical, RTI activists.