To mark International Human Rights Day (December 10), well-know civil rights organization, Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative has launched a web platform, http://attacksonrtiusers.org/Home/Index1/, for mapping attacks on right to information (RTI) users in India.
Calling web platform "Hall of Shame: Mapping Attack on RTI Users", CHRI says, it “wishes to encourage civil society actors and policymakers to work together to put in place mechanisms to prevent such future attacks. All RTI users who are attacked for seeking information in the public interest are in fact human rights defenders.”
CHRI, in a statement says, “Since October, 2005 when The Right to Information Act became fully operational, at least 51 citizens have allegedly been killed, 127 assaulted, 119 harassed or threatened and 5 driven to commit suicide because they sought information to expose corruption and wrong doing in government.”
“CHRI has developed the Hall of Shame to plot these cases geographically using the Google Map”, the statement says, adding, “Readers can access more than 300 media reports of such attacks on RTI users at the click of a button.”
The statement further says, “CHRI has also created a facility on this web platform for readers and activists to report instances of attacks on RTI users that we may have missed because they are published in the regional languages.”
Additionally, it says, “readers can access practical tips for preventing attacks in future. The web platform also contains guidance about how to approach the police and the National Human Rights Commission for an investigation or an inquiry into incidents of attacks on RTI users.”
According to CHRI, latest estimates show, people submit between 5-5.6 million RTI applications every year, wanting to know the reasons informing government decisions, insisting, “They need to be supported and defended.”
“Many want public authorities to take prompt action on grievances about stoppage of pensions or scholarships, or poor quality of services in government hospitals, schools and colleges”, the statement says.
“Others use RTI to expose corrupt practices in building roads with taxpayers’ money, or how welfare programmes for the underprivileged are implemented”, it adds.
Asserting that “not everybody who is attacked, harassed or threatened is a seasoned activist”, the statement says, “Sometimes, just one RTI application from a concerned citizen can lead to harassment or life-threatening assault.”
It alleges, “Vested interests, which benefit from corruption and wrong doing, are threatened by people’s demand for greater transparency and accountability. Hence the frequent attempts to stifle their voices.”