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‘End impunity to improve RTI implementation’

Kathmandu: Various stakeholders have shed light on the need of ending impunity and increasing information requests to ensure better implementation of the constitutionally and legally-guaranteed Right to Information in Nepal.

At a parallel session of the Nepal Peoples Forum 2022 on the SDG 16+ entitled ‘Access to Information and Fundamental Freedom’ in the capital on Friday, the speakers have laid emphasis on the effective execution of the RTI to set foundation for the achievement of other goals and targets of SDG.

Delivering his key note speech, Chief Commissioner at National Information Commissioner Mahendra Man Gurung called for Civil Society Organizations and public at large to help NIC in its campaign to end impunity – a key measure to improve the implementation of RTI.

He expressed commitment to develop a concrete national plan with targets and indicators to implement the right to information in a way to realize the Goal 16.10.2 i.e access to information.

“NIC has updated its official website and is developing a software to track RTI request. We are also mooting to develop a mechanism to monitor the implementation of the law across the country”, he shared.

Presenting a working paper on National Status of RTI in Nepal: Issues, Challenges and Way Forward’, Freedom Forum executive chief Taranath Dahal underscored the need of augmenting campaign for information requests so as to test the power of RTI for governance and citizen empowerment,

 “Universal access to information has been made an integral part of peace, justice and accountability. Without right to information guarantee, citizens cannot engage in governance process including oversight”, he claimed.

He highlighted that the new Constitution has enshrined good provisions ensuring fundamental freedoms including right to information to strengthen open and democratic regime but their implementation aspect is withered.

 “Nepal is the 8th country in the globe where the Constitution had guaranteed RTI. But, efforts are not being made to translate this essence into action”, he said, RTI movement has seen several challenges in the span of 14 years since the law was enacted in Nepal.

He called for the State agencies to ensure access to internet to improve access to information in the present digital age. “If the internet and digital access remained poor it would resultantly widen discrimination. It would be a challenge Nepal to achieve SDGs”.

Chairperson of Federation of Right to Information Network Umid Bagchand stressed the need to focus RTI interventions at local level to transform the lives of the people.

RTI researcher Krishna Sapkota highlighted the need to generate evidence of RTI use to claim that the tool was really benefitting the people.

Likewise, SDG National Network Coordinator Daya Sagar Shrestha called for RTI campaigners to critically scrutinize the status of freedom of expression in the country in view of encroachment upon fundamental freedoms, including civic and political freedoms of the citizens in the name of law-making.

FF chairperson Hari Binod Adhikari called for sincere efforts to ensure safety of requesters who are being harassed for demanding information.

RTI campaigners Biswojeet Tiwari and Ajaya Kumar Sah laid emphasis on changing mindset of actors so as to environment for RTI to deliver.

The event was attended by RTI advocates, campaigners, journalists and researchers from across the country.

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