1 out of 4 people know about the RTI Act; 9 out of 10 people faced some sort of corruption in the public sphere; Only 1 in 20 people have seen RTI in operation;
A third of the population believe that information can reduce corruption
According to the findings of a recent survey, 3 out of 4 people did not even hear about the Right to Information (RTI) Act, whereas only 25% were aware of the existence of the act.
On the occasion of International Information Rights Day 2019, Liberation War researcher, and Brac University Prof Afsan Chowdhury shared the survey findings in a discussion meeting titled “Right to Information and Corruption Prevention: First-decade experience and future plan” organized by Transparency International Bangladesh (TIB) on Thursday at its central office’s conference room in Dhaka’s Dhanmondi.
The media, governance, and diversity research centre gathered the survey findings. The findings include both the problem of corruption in Bangladesh, and the role and potential of RTI. The researcher, Prof Afsan Chowdhury, mentioned that the review data was not focused only on corruption but the overall governance issues.
A survey of 100 economically active people with experience of corruption was done to know about the challenges they face in terms of corruption in private, public, and official sphere, and how it has affected their social or economic well being, said Afsan Chowdhury.
Almost 9 out of 10 people faced some sort of corruption in public life, and 85% of the population faced it in the official sector, while 15% at private sectors, which affected their socio-economic wellbeing.
The survey also found that only 1 out of 20 people have seen RTI in operation. About 35% or more than 1/3rd believe that information can reduce corruption while 65% or 2/3rd said it cannot.
“Information is a right, and so it is not only linked to anti-corruption. RTI can give people better knowledge of governance, and a sense of participation. it is empowering, and can be useful for social movements. RTI should be part of school syllabus and students should be taught to use it, and RTI committee should be established at all levels,” recommended Afsan.
TIB Executive Director Dr Iftekharuzzaman said: “The Right to Information Act has been enacted to empower people. This is a strong law but not implemented effectively. Many have been harassed when trying to get information under the Right to Information Act. However, Bangladesh has ranked 26th in the Global Right to Information rating. In the past nine years, 99,238 RTIs were filed which means, on an average it is slightly more than 11,000 per year.”
Social entrepreneur, economist, and co-founder of Dnet Dr Ananya Raihan said: “Although the Right to Information Act is empowering, the law did not allow any accountability for the government. This is a major weakness. However, there are many good aspects of the law that are not being used as well.”
TIB has made 12 recommendations – include businessmen, political parties, and media under the RTI Act, necessary corrections, nomination of information officers required to fill information forms, excluding the obligation to provide details of the requesters personal information in view of specified security risk, provide information at any address given by the requester, and others.