#Censorship is alive and well in Canada – just ask government scientists


Canada

Elizabeth Renzetti The Globe and Mail

Published Friday, Feb. 22 2013, 8:27 PM EST Freedom to Read Week begins on Feb. 24, bringing with it the perfect opportunity to kick the tires of democracy and make sure the old jalopy’s still running as she should.

 

What’s that you say? The bumper fell off when you touched it? The engine won’t turn over? That’s not so good. Better look under the hood. We like to think of censorship as something that happens over there, in the faraway places where men break into houses at night to smash computers, or arrive in classrooms to remove books they don’t like. Not in lovely, calm, respectful Canada. Here we don’t necessarily notice freedoms being eroded slowly, grain by grain, “like sands through the hourglass,” if you’ll allow me to quote from Days of Our Lives. Just ask Canada’s government scientists. Oh wait, you can’t ask them, because they’ve got duct tape over their mouths (metaphorical duct tape, but hey – it’s still painful). This week the University of Victoria’s Environmental Law Clinic and Democracy Watch asked federal Information Commissioner Suzanne Legault to investigate claims that scientists are being prohibited from speaking freely with journalists – and through them, the public. In a report called Muzzling Civil Servants: A Threat to Democracy, the UVic researchers present some chilling findings: Scientists are either told not to speak to journalists or to spout a chewed-over party line, rubber-stamped by their PR masters; the restrictions are particularly tight when a journalist is seeking information about research relating to climate change or the tar sands; Environment Canada scientists require approval from the Privy Council Office before speaking publicly on sensitive topics “such as climate change or protection of polar bear and caribou.” You wouldn’t want the average citizen to learn too much about caribou, now. Who knows how crazy he could get with that kind of information? It could lead to panel discussions about Arctic hares, town halls on ptarmigans. The report states that government scientists are “frustrated,” which is hardly surprising. It’s like hiring Sandy Koufax and never letting him pitch. The other thing that the report makes clear is how deliberate this strategy is: “The federal government has recently made concerted efforts to prevent the media – and through them, the general public – from speaking to government scientists, and this, in turn, impoverishes the public debate on issues of significant national concern.” This is not an issue that’s going away. The Harper government’s heavy-handed control of scientists’ research has raised concerns across the world for a few years, including condemnation from such bastions of Marxism as Nature magazine. A couple thousand scientists from across the country marched on Parliament Hill last July to protest cuts in research (many in the highly sensitive area of environment and climate change) and restrictions on their ability to speak freely about their work. They created what might be the best chant in the history of political protest: “What do we want? Science! When do we want it? After peer review!” Last week, Margaret Munro of Postmedia News reported that a University of Delaware scientist was up in arms over a new confidentiality agreement brought in by Canada’s Department of Fisheries and Oceans. “I’m not signing it,” Andreas Muenchow told the reporter. What does this mean for bilateral co-operation on research? Nothing good, that’s for sure. The Vise-Grip on information is tightening and Ottawa is the muscle. Last month, Canadian Journalists for Free Expression released a report about the dire state of freedom of information requests: “Canada’s access to information system is in a deep crisis and without urgent reform could soon become dysfunctional,” the report noted. That means fewer requests being processed, at a more glacial pace, with more of the juicy bits blacked out by the government censor’s pen. This is the good stuff, people. The stuff the government doesn’t want you to know about. The stuff that’s kept in a filing cabinet in Gatineau under a sign that says, “Nothing here. Nope. Just a three-week-old tuna sandwich. And it’s radioactive.” This is the information we need to keep an eye on the government’s internal gears – and it’s being withheld. Canada recently plummeted 10 places to No. 20 in the World Press Freedom Index, which measures how unfettered a country’s media is. Reporters Without Borders, which compiles the index, is concerned about the access-to-information issue and about the protection of journalists’ sources. The beacon we should now follow is Jamaica, whose press freedoms rank highest in the region. It’s the perfect time to welcome Freedom to Read Week. There are events all over Canada and countless ways to celebrate our precious liberties. Bring your kids to the library. Read something you shouldn’t. Even better, write something you shouldn’t. A letter to your MP, perhaps?

 

 

 

BREAKING NEWS-Soldier in Jammu invokes Human Rights Commission against Information Commissioner #RTI


 

VINITA DESHMUKH | 16/01/2013 0, Moneylife

Being denied of information and humiliated during the hearing of his case on 10th January at the State Information Commission office, Sanskrit scholar and RTI activist Dr Subedar Surinder Sharma turned to the State Human Rights Commission to get justice


Jammu-based soldier, Subedar Surinder Sharma was filled with grief when his sister, in her thirties, died under mysterious circumstances on 29 January 2011. Agitated over the fact that the police recorded the case as ‘suicide’ and not ‘murder’ despite alleged proof in the forensic laboratory’s autopsy report, Sharma invoked the RTI (Right to Information) Act. He asked for inspection of documents of all records pertaining to autopsy as well as “chain of custody” of autopsy samples from the Government Medical College and Hospital in Jammu.  He had also requested permission of assistance of his friend Deepak Sharma to be present during inspection as he is not well versed with English—this soldier though is a Sanskrit scholar having done his PhD in it.
The public information officer (PIO) declined information stating he does not have the copy of the autopsy report. Sharma then filed the first appeal but was informed by the First Appellate Authority that they indeed have the copy of the autopsy report but cannot allow inspection as records of other patients would also be revealed. Surinder Sharma, appealed to the FAA that he was only interested in his sister’s report but was denied information.
Hence, he appealed to the State Information Commissioner where his case was pending until he was asked to be present for hearing on 4 January 2013 at the Chief State Information Commission’s office where the case was to be heard.
His friend, Deepak Sharma also filed a separate RTI application on 29 April 2011 asking for the “crime scene observation report” of Surinder Sharma’s sister, from the PIO of the Office of Forensic Laboratory, Jammu. On 26 May 2011, he was denied information under the pretext of Section 8. He filed an appeal with the FAA on 12 July 2011 but was denied information. Deepak Sharma then filed a complaint with the State Information Commission but by a decision on 4 January 2012, the Information Commissioner dismissed the petition stating that the applicant has already received the information from the PIO. States Deepak Sharma, “the Information Commissioner without giving me a notice or hearing my side, gave such an order.” Aggrieved at this “lie, as I had never received the information”, he asked for a review application. Very strangely, the SIC sent back the application to the FAA who once again turned down his request. Finally, Surinder Sharma under media glare, wrote a RTI application with his own blood on 12 October 2012 and submitted it to the PIO. It was then that the SIC took it seriously and the PIO was compelled to give a copy of report.
However, Deepak Sharma’s hearing at the Chief State Information Commissioner’s office on 10 January last week turned ugly. Both the RTI applicants are crying foul over the humiliation meted to them by GR Sufi, Chief State Information Commissioner of Jammu and Kashmir.  States Surinder Sharma, “when we sat on the chairs, Mr Sufi asked us to vacate our chairs, saying it is not meant for people like us. He also humiliated us and threatened us that no appeal of ours would be entertained and that any case can be filed against us. He also took objection to my presence to assist Mr Surendra. He said that I am not an advocate. When I brought to his notice that the RTI Act allows assistance from any citizen, not necessarily a lawyer, he was very rude. Shocked at the arrogance we have made a petition to the State Human Rights Commission, to conduct a probe against Mr Sufi for his behavior.”
Chandigarh-based Surendera M. Bhanot, coordinator RTIFED who is campaigning against the arrogance of various information commissioners writes in Humjanenge blog, “Such behaviour of the Information Commissioners has brought the institution of Information Commissions to disrepute. This has opened a new front for the information seeker to approach the Central/State Human Right Commissions. Exactly so, one information seeker has really invoked this right.”
Lately, the information commissioners have come under ire for killing the RTI Act through their insipid orders. Now, it is a bit more serious as one of their fraternity members is alleged of misconduct towards RTI applicants.

Copy of the letter addressed to the Jammu and Kashmir State Human Rights Commission
Surinder Sharma & Deepak Sharma, R/o Mandlik Bhawan, 412-C, Jeevan Nagar, Jammu (Complainants)
Vs
Sh. GR Sufi, State Chief Information Commissioner, Jammu and Kashmir State Information
Commission, Wazarat Road, Jammu (Respondent)

 

Sub: Complaint of human rights violation and serious breach of constitutional rightof the complainants by Sh. GR Sufi, State Chief Information Commissioner, Jammu and Kashmir State Information Commission, Jammu.

 

Hon’ble Sir,

 

It is submitted with deep grief and pain that the complainants were humiliated, harassed, threatened to be implicated in false cases and the fundamental rights of Right to Equality before law, Right to Information, Right to a fair and transparent trial in the court of law, Right to life and liberty, Right to live with human dignity, Right to freedom of speech and expression and Right to enter in any public office were violated by Sh. GR Sufi, State Chief Information Commissioner, Jammu and Kashmir State Information Commission, Jammu.
The complainants would also like to bring in to the kind notice of Hon’ble Chief Minister Sahib that the complainant no. 2 had already submitted a written request to the J&K State Information Commission, dated 30 March 2012, receipt no. 2912, requesting for the videography of his cases pending for trial at J&K State Information Commission, for a fair and transparent trial. But unfortunately, for the reasons best known to the State Information Commission, the Commission remained insensitive and even did not bother to reply the complainant of his request.
The complainants would also like to bring this in to the kind notice of the Hon’ble State Human Rights Commission that the respondent had even himself violated the provisions of the state RTI Act and put the life of the appellants/information seekers on risk. The section 6(2) of the state RTI Act prohibits any personal question, motive and the purpose and use for seeking information, but the respondent had in utter violation of this provision of the Act in his decision no. 45 of SIC/J/Comp., dated 31/10/2011directed the information seeker to apprise him of the purpose of seeking and use of sought information.
The details of the present complaint case and circumstances are as follows:
That a case titled “Surinder Sharma Vs GMC” was listed for hearing in the open courtof Hon’ble Chief State Information Commissioner, Sh. GRSufi on 10/01/2013 at 11am. The applicant along with his duly authorized representative, Sh. Deepak Sharma (Complainant no. 2) approached to the State Information commission office on 10/01/13 at 10.45am.
That both the complainants after showing their presence to the private secretary of the State Chief Information Commissioner , entered in to the open court of State Chief Information Commissioner , Sh. GR Sufi , where the case was listed for hearing.
That both the complainants humbly wished the Hon’ble State Chief Information Commissioner and took their seats. The officials from the GMC, Jammu were already seating on the chairs.
That the State Chief Information Commissioner , Sh.GR Sufi suddenly in a very rude manner ordered the complainants to vacate the chairs immediately , stating the reasons that the complainants have no right and capacity to sit on chairs before him . He also remarked that the complainants and some others like the people of Jammu region do not deserve to sit on chairs before him and only senior officials/ bureaucrats like the officials from GMC, deserve to sit on the chairs before him.
That both the complainants as ordered by the State Chief Information Commissioner immediately vacated their chairs and in standing position requested to start the trial. The complainant no. 1 (Sh. Surinder Sharma ) requested to the Hon’ble State Chief Information Commissioner , that the complainant no. 2 ( Sh. Deepak Sharma) would present the case on his behalf. (This request of the complainant No. 1 was under the provisions laid down in the J&K RTI Act, 2009).
That the State Chief Information Commissioner, while violating the provisions laid down in the J&K RTI Act, 2009, rejected the request of the complainant no. 1 to present complainant no. 2 as his representative, citing the reasons that only an advocate with valid licence can only represent an applicant in the open courts of the Information Commission and since the complainant no. 2 (Sh.Deepak Sharma) is not an advocate , hence the complainant no. 2 could not be allowed to represent the case of complainant no. 1( Sh. Surinder Sharma).
That the complainant no. 2 (Sh.Deepak Sharma) humbly requested to the State Chief Information Commissioner  that the J&K RTI Act, 2009 , permits even a non-advocate to represent an applicant and no where in the Act it is mentioned that a non-advocate cannot represent an applicant in the case.
That the State Chief Information Commissioner in a fit of anger ordered the complainants not to speak in front of him, ordered to get out of his court immediately and also warned the complainants not to file any appeal/complaint in the J&K State Information Commission in future . The Hon’ble State Chief Information Commissioner even threatened to implicate the complainants in to false cases and also threatened to teach them a suitable lesson if the complainants approach to any forum against this conduct of the State Chief Information Commissioner and also ordered the complainants not to enter in to the premises of open courts of the Commission and even in the office of J&K state Information Commission.
That the complainants were even not allowed to mark their attendance on the attendance register. That the State Chief Information Commissioner also stated that in future the complainants/appeal under the J&K RTI Act, 2009, from the complainants would not be accepted/entertained by the State Chief Information Commissioner.
Prayer: Through this prayer, the complainants most humbly request to the Hon’ble State Human Rights Commission to conduct an independent probe in this matter, direct the State Chief Information Commissioner to honor the fundamental rights of the complainants ,direct the State Chief Information Commissioner to restrain from filling any false case against the complainants, direct the State Chief Information Commissioner to acknowledge and accept the appeals/complaints filed by the complainants under the provisions of the J&K RTI Act, 2009, direct the J&K State Information Commission to conduct the videography of all the cases of the complainants for a fair and transparent trail, direct State Chief Information Commissioner, Sh.GR Sufi not to restrict the entry of the complainants in open courts of the commission, not to restrain the entry of the complainants in the premises of J&K State Information Commission both in Jammu and Srinagar office, the State Chief Information Commissioner may also be directed not to infringe the rights of the complaints to seek information under J&K RTI Act from state public authorities, the State Chief Information Commissioner may also be directed not to violate Section 6(2) of the state RTI Act and not to put the lives of innocent information seekers on the radar of the corrupt elements by asking about the use of sought information, or to award any other suitable relief to the complainants as this commission may deemed appropriate.

 

Dated:

Surinder Sharma (complainant no. 1)

Deepak Sharma (Complainant no. 2)

R/o Mandlik Bhawan, 412-C,

Jeevan Nagar, Jammu – 180010

Mob. +919419110579

Breach of Human Rights

RTI activist moves SHRC against CIC Sufi

 

Jammu 14January 2013: A complaint has been filed in the Jammu and Kashmir State Human Rights Commission against GR Sufi, the State Chief Information Commissioner on the allegations that he has humiliated , harassed and violated human right of the complainant.
A complaint dated 14 January 2013 has been filed with the SHRC through its secretary by one Sh Deepak Sharma of Jammu. In the complaint, the complainant has alleged that GR Sufi not only violated the fundamental rights of the complainant, but he has also threatened the victim to implicate him in a false case. It is also submitted in the prayer that CIC has restricted the entry of the complainant in the State Information Commission and had also verbally directed the victim not to file any RTI application with any Public Authority in future.
The three- page complaint further alleged that respondent GR Sufi, State Chief Information Commissioner, did not allow the complainant to remain present in the open court of the Commission during its proceeding on 10 January 2013, in a case titled “Surinder Sharma Vs Govt.Medical College, Jammu”. The complaint further states that the respondent not only asked the complainant to get out of the open court (RTI Commission Court) but also in a very rude manner ordered him to vacate the chair where he was sitting stating that the complainant as an ordinary citizen had no right to sit on chair and only senior officials/bureaucrats deserve to sit on chairs.
The respondent had also asked the victim not to approach the RTI Commission with any complaint/appeal under the RTI Act, as the Commission would not accept/entertain the same.
Prior to this appeal to the State Human Rights Commision , Deepak Sharma had already made a request dated 30 March 2012, with the State Information Commission for videography of all his cases for a fair and transparent proceedings in the commission but till date the Commission has not taken any decision on his letter for videography.
In his prayer, the complainant Deepak Sharma has urged the State Human Rights Commission to conduct an independent probe in this matter and direct the respondent,GR Sufi to honour the fundamental rights of the complainant and also to restrain him from filling any false case against the complainant and also to accept and entertain the appeals under RTI Act and not to restrict the entry of the complainant in the open court of the commission and the office complex of the commission as the complainant as a citizen has fundamental right of right to entry in any public office.
Another RTI activist had also filed an RTI application with the State Information Commission on 10 January 2013, where he has asked the Information Commission for providing the names and designations of the persons who are entitled to sit on chairs installed in the open court of CIC, GR Sufi. He has also asked the total amount spent by Sh. GR Sufi from his own pocket for the purchase of any furniture in the open court.”

 

Disclose psychiatric info under RTI? Yes, says CIC; No, says HC


Pritha Chatterjee : New Delhi, Tue Apr 24

Do psychiatry patients have the right to access records of their treatment? While the Central Information Commission (CIC) directed a mental health hospital to provide this information to a patient, the hospital has moved court citing confidentiality.

The Delhi High Court has given the Institute of Human Behaviour and Allied Sciences (IHBAS) a stay order against disclosing the information till the next hearing in September.

The case pertains to a 32-year-old married woman. She was admitted to IHABS in April 2011 by the hospital’s mobile health unit from her Gurgaon home, after her husband approached hospital with her “symptoms”.

According to Dr Nimesh Desai, director of IHBAS, “Confidentiality of psychiatric information — which includes all information disclosed by different parties related to the patient for treatment purposes — is a very fundamental concept. It is something every psychiatrist promises his interviewees verbally. Unfortunately, till date, India does not have a legal provision regarding this. The unique nature of this information — which includes historical information of the patient, his or her recollections, fantasies, feelings, fears and preoccupations from the past as well as in the present — distinguishes it from other medical records.”

The patient was discharged after four days and has since been staying with her mother in Bhopal. After her discharge, she filed an RTI seeking “the basis for my admission, doctor’s observation, and clinical examination reports, and doctor’s observation…”

Meanwhile, the patient’s husband, too, filed an RTI application, seeking the reasons of his wife’s discharge, “without my information.”

In both cases, IHBAS authorities stated that “the information sought was provided by the patient and her husband, which is sensitive/confidential in nature.”

“The need for discretion in disclosing psychiatric information is compounded in cases like this, where there is a possible marital discord and each seeks such history to use against the other,” Dr Desai said.

The December 2011 CIC order by Information Commissioner Shailesh Gandhi stated that while the hospital was exempted from disclosing treatment records to anyone other than the patient, “these precedents are not relevant when the information is being sought by the patient herself”.

Arguing against this, in their writ before the High Court, IHBAS said, “that every party disclosed information in confidentiality to the psychiatrist and the hospital should not give it away to anyone, including the patient.”

The disclosure of information contained in psychiatry case records would discourage the patients and their relatives to furnish personal and sensitive information and they would prefer to withhold such information, which would largely affect the treatment,” the writ stated.

Meanwhile, the patient’s family said they were “exploring legal options, on this violation of the CIC order.”

Archives

Kractivism-Gonaimate Videos

Protest to Arrest

Faking Democracy- Free Irom Sharmila Now

Faking Democracy- Repression Anti- Nuke activists

JAPA- MUSICAL ACTIVISM

Kamayaninumerouno – Youtube Channel

UID-UNIQUE ?

Enter your email address to follow this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

Join 6,232 other followers

Top Rated

Blog Stats

  • 1,794,795 hits

Archives

July 2020
M T W T F S S
 12345
6789101112
13141516171819
20212223242526
2728293031  
%d bloggers like this: