12 RTI activists killed; report calls them ‘sitting ducks’


New Delhi : At least 12 Right to Information (RTI) activists have been killed in the line of duty since last year – the latest victim being Shehla Masood of Bhopal whose death has raised a huge furore – a report said Friday.

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Titled ‘RTI Activists: Sitting ducks of India’, the report by the Asian Centre for Human Rights (ACHR) said that from Jan 2010 to Aug 2011, at least 12 activists including Masood were killed for seeking information to “promote transparency and accountability in the working of every public authority” in India.

Anti-corruption campaigner Masood was shot in the neck in her car outside her home in the Koh-e-Fiza area of Bhopal Aug 16 morning. Her murder shocked Madhya Pradesh and RTI activists across India.

Home Minister P. Chidambaram hinted at a Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) probe into her murder.

“Even a policeman (or auxilliary to the police) could not escape death for seeking information under the Right to Information Act, 2005. On July 25, 2010, Babbu Singh of Uttar Pradesh Home Guard was killed allegedly for seeking information about government funds and work done by his village Pradhan at Katghar village in Uttar Pradesh,” Suhas Chakma of ACHR said.

“Many face serious physical assaults on a regular basis. Those who seek information from their village panchayat and other local administration also face social ostracisation. Attacks on RTI activists do not make news (anymore),” he added.

According to Chakma, RTI activists are among the most vulnerable human rights defenders.

The report recommends that the government should ammend the RTI Act and a separate chapter on protection of those seeking information should be inserted.