The Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative (CHRI) has launched a web platform for mapping attacks on Access to Information (ATI) users in India called the “Hall of Shame”. The launch was to commemorate the occasion of International Human Rights Day (on 10th of December).
Records show that since the Right to Information Act became fully operational in India, 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.
Using Google map, CHRI developed the Hall of Shame to plot these cases geographically and with the click of a button, readers can access more than 300 media reports of such attacks on access to information users.
CHRI also created a facility on the platform for people to report instances of attacks on ATI users that it may have missed.
Readers are also provided access to practical tips for preventing future attacks as well as guidance about how to approach the police and the National Human Rights Commission for an investigation or an inquiry into incidents of attacks on ATI users.
CHRI data estimate that people submit between 5 and 5.6 million ATI requests annually in India desiring to know a variety of issues including reasons behind government’s decisions; asking public authorities to take prompt action on grievances about stoppage of pensions or scholarships; questioning poor quality of services in government hospitals, schools and colleges; and to expose corrupt practices in the spending of taxpayers’ money etc.
CHRI noted that not every person attacked, harassed or threatened is a seasoned activist, at times, an ATI request from a concerned citizen can lead to harassment or life-threatening assault. Additionally, vested interests, which benefit from corruption and wrong doing, are threatened by people’s demand for greater transparency and accountability and fight back.
CHRI said it is using the Hall of Shame to encourage civil society actors and policymakers to work together to put in place mechanisms to prevent such future attacks.
The Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative (CHRI) is an independent, non-partisan, international non-governmental organisation, mandated to ensure the practical realisation of human rights in the countries of the Commonwealth.