14 December 2011

Activist demanding information shot dead as government tries to ramp up cyber censorship

An activist with a long history of campaigning for transparency and accountability was shot dead by unknown gunmen at a time the government attempts to further clamp down on the free flow of information.

ARTICLE 19 reports that whistleblower Shri Ram Vilas Singh had filed several Right to Information (RTI) applications in the past, unearthing black market commodity dealings and corruption in dam construction, and was waiting on new RTI requests when he was killed. Singh's newest requests were related to the misuse of development funds at the village council level, the organisation reports.

Singh was shot by unknown assailants on the morning of 8 December. His death mirrors the July and August 2011 killings of Sheila Masood and Amit Jethava, who were also shot by unidentified gunmen after demanding information on government corruption.

The National Campaign for the People's Right to Information representative Rajikishore Madhukar told ARTICLE 19 that while Singh allegedly sought out state protection, law enforcement agencies neglected his case.

While the murders of RTI activists may force others to censor criticism, the government is also working to systematically censor information shared on the Internet, according to Access Now, an organisation campaigning against increasing Internet restrictions around the world.

India's Telecom Minister Kapil Sibal has asked Internet companies, including Google and Facebook, to allow the government to pre-screen user-generated information for content it deems "offensive," says Access, which is circulating a petition against the move.

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