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Bhutanese Parliamentarian Calls for Passage of RTI Law

Source: freedominfo.org

Date: 9 March 2012

A member of the Bhutan parliament has called for enactment of a right to information law and a pro-RTI Facebook page has been established.

Sangay Khandu, a Member of Parliament of Bhutan representing the people of Gasa Dzongkhag to the National Council, expressed his views in an article published on his blog.

Khandu wrote:

A largely sidelined and most times misunderstood potential legislative intervention has been the Right to Information Act (RTI). I say sidelined because it has not been able to make it to the legislative priroity of the Royal Government even as the 1st Parliament nears the conclusion of its 5 year tenure. Most times misunderstood because it has been associated with freedom of press more than with the individual right of every Bhutanese citizen.

Article 7 of our Constitution adopted by the Parliament on July 18, 2008, guarantees every Bhutanese access to information as a fundamental right. Freedom of press and other forms of media is also explicitly enshrined in the Bhutanese constitution under different clauses.

The drafting of a Right to Information legislation had begun as far back as in 2007 much like the Anti-Corruption legislation, before the 2008 national elections. The first sensitization conference on RTI was also organized by the Royal Government in 2009 after it came into power. Since then the Ministry of Inforomation and Communication has made several public statements about the Royal Government’s the draft RTI Bill. We know today that it has now been with the cabinet for sometime. With only two sessions of parliament left before the 1st parliament completes tenure, its been less than satisfactory with it still not featuring in on the list of legislative priority of the Royal Government.

The author goes on to give credit to the government for proactive reporting and providing access to the media. “Bhutanese with grievances can also approach the Prime Minister’s Office for redressal. However, I am not aware of any grievances related to access to information that has been lodged with the office so far other than one reported as having been received in a recent editorial by a newspaper.”

However, he continued: “There are no known transparent procedures and processes other than using the ones published (which may not satisfy users most times) for public seeking information. In this absence, many continue to use information received from agencies, it leads one to believe that people use connections, family, friends, known contacts, acquaintances  to obtain these information. While most of these information sharing may not qualify for as insider-trading or corruption, but it also clearly shows the lack of fairness in the way information can be obtained. There is a clear existence of information asymmetry which needs to be corrected.”

He further discusses record-keeping and other matters in his lengthy blog post.