Riaz Khan Daudzai, a reporter for The News International in Peshawar, was awarded the Right to Information (RTI) Champions Award 2018 by the Pakistan’s civil society coalition on RTI for his use of public records in journalism. Mr. Daudzai received the award at an event organised by the Centre for Peace and Development Initiatives and GIZ Pakistan on 28 September to mark the International Right to Know Day.
Media for Transparency spoke with Mr. Daudzai about his work and the effectiveness of the Khyber Pakhhtunkhwa RTI law in news reporting.
Discussing his work, Mr. Daudzai said that his experience using the RTI law has been positive. He said that thanks to the information laws, many journalists have filed good public-interest stories.
“We have made good progress in our careers thanks to the RTI law,” he said.
Mr. Daudzai said that he himself is an activist and proponent of transparency within government. He stressed that there cannot be good governance without the presence of such laws.
He said that RTI has established a confidence in journalists, which was not there before. In the past the only reliable source they had were human sources, he said. But if the coverage resulted in accountability, the reporters were often left at risk.
“People would deny what they said,” Mr. Daudzai said. “Quotes would be claimed as misquoted all the time.”
He said sometimes legal cases would be filed against journalists to punish them after sources backtracked on their on-record quotes.
“But now this law gives credibility to what we say,” he said, indicating that the authenticity of documents and public records acquired through the RTI law is certified by government departments and cannot be discredited.
He said the RTI law is like a “brother” for news reporters.
“This brother sits in the government’s department all day to get the information for you,” he said. “This brother saves you time and money and gives access to your desired information.”
Mr. Daudzai said the nature of data-driven news stories is such that these stories require time to complete. He said reporters should plan such stories out, complete the data story in their personal time, and submit their daily stories in parallel.
About the challenge of interpreting data, Mr. Daudzai said his experience of working on public affairs and commerce news beats has prepared him for data analysis and working with numbers.
“I analyse data myself, and then theorise it, and I make the structure for the stories myself,” he said.
Mr. Daudzai said that he tries to make the data simple and comprehensible for the readers to help them better understand the situation.
“I make the data citizen-friendly,” he said. “If needed we use more pages in the newspaper to add diagrams.”
Mr. Daudzai said he believes that access to information is a basic human right and citizens should have the right to question people in power so that the wall of secrecy that protects corruption, malpractice, and bad governance can be broken.
“God has given us this right” he said. “The right to ask question is even mentioned in the Quran; how can it be denied?”