ISLAMABAD - Press Council of Pakistan (PCP) stands for maximum disclosures and minimum exemptions while implementing the true vision of people's access to information in a country like Pakistan.

Chairman PCP, Raja M Shafqat Khan Abbasi, made these observations while addressing an interactive gathering on "Implementing the Vision of Right to Information Laws" here at PCP Secretariat on Tuesday. During the course of discussion the Chairman stressed the need for implementing RTI laws in all perspective to ensure as it can make a significant difference in terms of empowering people, improving governance, strengthening democracy, instituting public accountability and bringing transparency in day to day working of government functionaries and departments. He said, "Presence of comprehensive right to information law is a catalyst for change and its efficacy works around breaking the culture of secrecy and ending the monopoly of privileged classes and only few journalists to get access to restricted information."

The Chairman urged the Sindh and Balochistan governments to take necessary steps to implement right to information laws. Earlier access to information was a statutory right granted under Freedom of Information Law 2002 which failed to serve desired purpose due to inherent clauses and long list of vague, open and extensive exemptions. He said that the passage of Article 19-A through the 18th Amendment in the Constitution of Pakistan presents KPK Right to Information (RTI) Law, Punjab Freedom of Information Bill and Law by Senate Committee are a positive outcome. The governments of Balochistan and Sindh have also freedom of information laws but its proper implementation has several issues which should be sorted out as soon as possible.

Senior journalist Matiullah Jan said high public response would be a key and a vital requisite for implementing the true vision of any RTI Law and PCP along with other stakeholders should do all what is required to raise level of public response in pursuing their own right to know.

The discussants urged that the FOI Laws should be potent laws to cover all subjects including governor, CM secretariat, judiciary, all government departments, private bodies funded by government funds and private bodies providing public services. Participants agreed that there should be no blanketed exemptions for defence and other issues of national security.

They also argued that features of KPK RTI Law should be incorporated in the RTI Laws of other provinces.

After the deliberations a joint declaration was passed to emphasise that (1) such laws should be passed by elected representatives (2) strong implementation mechanism (3) in implementing the vision input of all stakeholders including government and civil society organisations must be ensured (4) more proactive role of media for arousing awareness in public about RTI laws.