To a sheer lack of awareness about citizen's right to information enshrined in the constitution, a people's representative issued death threat to the information seeker and apologized later, realizing the mistake.
Ram Badahur Gurung, a ward member of Lekhnath Municipality-21 manhandled and issued death threat to Pokhara-based journalist Himlal Poudel for seeking information about the activities in the Ward Office.
Talking to the legal desk, journalist Poudel informed that he had filed a RTI application seeking information why the women from privileged community participated in bee keeping training which was actually planned for the under privileged group. He also filed RTI application requesting information about the allocated budget and reason for delay in road construction in the concerned municipality.
He had been continuously reporting these issues in his online news portal.
After the manhandle and death threat, journalist Poudel filed a complaint at Chhorepatan Police Office, Kaski, seeking his safety and action against the accused. Upon his complaint, Deputy Superintendent of Police Nabin Karki called the Ward Member Gurung and journalist Poudel at the police station for the investigation.
According to journalist Poudel, "SP called both of us at the police station to resolve the issue. As ward member Gurung said, he had initially thought that filing RTI application at the institution meant filing personal case against him. Owing to his unawareness about the right to information, he misbehaved with me."
Moreover, SP and the journalist had to make him aware about the RTI laws. Following this, Gurung apologized, admitting the mistake and even reconciled in writing. Finally, he has pledged for cooperation and coordination with media and RTI activist in coming days.
Freedom Forum appreciates the prompt action of the security personnel against the complaint and the effort to make the ward member aware about the RTI laws. Similarly, the incident reflects that the local representatives are not well informed about the RTI law despite having this law in place a decade back. It also points out the need of proper orientation on RTI to the newly elected representatives, so that they could respond duly to the RTI applications, thereby fostering transparent practice in local governance.
At a time when the local levels are shouldered with the responsibility of delivering numerous services to the people, the knowledge of the fundamental rights of citizens- RTI- among the people's representatives is imperative.
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