Democracy demands better access to parliamentary information

KARACHI: Parliamentary reforms are need to strengthen democracy and it is also necessary that people have a better access to parliamentary information and know the performance of their elected representatives, said speakers of a media sensitization workshop on parliamentary reforms was organized by Free and Fair Election Network (FAFEN) at Karachi Press Club (KPC).

The speakers said it is necessary that citizens should have keen interest in what their parliament and elected representatives are doing. FAFEN has been monitoring National Assembly since 2008 and provincial assemblies since September 11 regularly. It has a vast data on proceedings of these assemblies that is also shared with general public through media release, reports and publications. This huge data can also help reporters in their investigative reporting. It could be highly valuable for those interested in data journalism.

The data journalism is playing an important role in modern investigative journalism as it relies on the undeniable data and record. There is a need to promote the data journalism in Pakistan so that reports can use numerical information in their stories for more clarity as well as in-depth analysis. Parliamentary reporters using the data journalism methods can ensure a better public access to parliamentary information and generate keen public interest in democratic and parliamentary affairs.

FAFEN has been holding training sessions and workshop for the journalists and it is also focusing on promoting data journalism regarding parliamentary affairs. For strengthening democracy there is a need of parliamentary reforms to make the system more efficient and transparent. Political parties, civil society and media are main stakeholders to ensure better parliamentary reforms. FAFEN is for reforms to bring institutional and legal framework that will help ensure a more transparent, fair and free electoral system in the country.

Freedom of information is a must in better investigative journalism. The reporters should try to use their right to information while writing their stories and in this regard data journalism can greatly assist them. Parliament has a pivotal role in any democracy and better parliamentary reporting practices are necessary to provide citizens complete and unbiased information about proceedings of assemblies so that voters can assess the performance of their elected representatives. If the treasury and opposition benches are not playing their due rule and there are complaints of corruption and lack of transparency a timely investigative reporting of these issues can not only help in better access of information of general public but also augment a true democratic culture. FAFEN believes in closer coordination with civil society especially media. It has arranged a lot of training workshops and seminars for journalists in different parts of the country. It has extensive data on parliament which it gladly shares with general public and media. It can also answer specific queries of journalists regarding parliamentary data of diverse nature.

FAFEN was established in 2006 as a coalition of 30 non-governmental organizations to observe the general elections and mobilize voters. The Asia Foundation facilitated the formation of the network. However, the purpose-based network continued its working after the general elections held in February 2008 and expanded its scope to work from election oversight and reforms to include parliamentary oversight and reforms, governance oversight and reforms and political parties’ oversight and reforms. FAFEN is currently governed by the Trust for Democratic Education and Accountability (TDEA).

Those spoke include Syed Abdul Ahad, Director Parliament Watch and Reforms, Owais Aslam Ali Member Board of Trustees TDEA-FAFEN, Younus Bandhani Member Board of Trustees TDEA-FAFEN, Faisal Hayat Program Officer Advocacy and others.

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