Introduction: The Right to Information is the key to all other rights. It is among the most important instruments to effectively empower those to whom power should belong in democracy - the people. The United Nations has called it the touchstone of all the freedoms to which UN is consecrated.3 The history of the recognition of the right to information is much older though. The first country to have the RTI law was Finland and Sweden in 1766 when the former was a territory governed by Sweden. The joint Parliament of the then Finland and Sweden adopted the first RTI law of the world titled Access to Public Records Act, 1766. Nearly seventy countries have since enacted RTI law or act, of which over 40 have done so during the decade of nineties and thereafter. The newly elected Government of Bangladesh adopted the Right to Information Act in the first session of the 9th Parliament on March 29, 2009, marking a significant step forward in fulfilling the constitutional pledge of the state of Bangladesh. This upsurge of the RTI law worldwide comes as an indicator of the growing recognition of the importance of the citizens’ access to information as a catalyst for strengthening democracy, promoting human rights and good governance, and fighting corruption. Enactment of RTI laws has in many cases taken persistent efforts of campaign. and advocacy by a multiplicity of stakeholders in the public, private, and non-governmental sectors, particularly the latter who like in Bangladesh, played the catalytic role. The experience of RTI movement shows that while enactment of the law appears as a dream-come-true for the campaigners, its implementation, like any other law enforcement, is much more challenging. Thanks to the adoption of the RTI Act, Bangladesh has also placed before itself the challenge of implementing the Act and delivering the people the right to information. This paper seeks answer to the questions on why is it important to promote and protect people’s right to information; what are some of the key preconditions and factors that should be in place to ensure effective delivery of benefits of the RTI Act; and what are the roles of the key stakeholders.
Right to Information, which may also be referred to as Freedom of Information is now a universally recognized right. It is a fundamental key to the all the other rights. The United Nation in its first session of general assembly adopted the Regulation (59)1 which declares, “Freedom of Information is a fundamental human right and is the touchstone of all the freedoms to which the United Nations is concerned.”1 In a democratic society people are the most powerful element and Right to Information empowers them to realize the fruits of Democracy. Transparent governance structure is an absolute requirement for free debate and accountability that encourage citizens to engage with public officials and make the state a more effective one. Governments cannot be transparent without creating regime where general people have a right to know what their Government is doing or what information it is holding. Adams2 puts emphasis that it is indispensable that the people acquire knowledge in order to participate in politics. He stated, The people have a right, an indisputable, inalienable, indefeasible divine right to that most dreaded and envied kind of knowledge, I mean of the characters and conduct of their rulers’’. He went on saying, ‘‘the preservation of the means of knowledge among the lowest ranks, is of more importance than all the property of all the rich men in the country. Freedom of information is important because of the following reasons:
1. Confidence and loyalty thrive where people have the right to know. 2. Patriotism springs from the people’s own convictions, based not upon government...