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Activist, anti-corruption crusader shot dead in Bihar

(ARTICLE 19/IFEX) - 8 December 2011 - ARTICLE 19 condemns the murder of Right to Information activist and whistleblower, Shri Ram Vilas Singh, shot dead in Laksarai, Bihar in India by unidentified assailants at 9am today, Considered a "guru" (teacher) on right to information issues, he is said to have filed several Right To Information (RTI) applications to unearth corruption and misuse in the spending of development funds in Amhara gram panchayat (council).

Singh is also known for uncovering black market practices relating to commodities. He had also helped uncover corruption in the construction of check dams and the appointment of Anganwadi (health care) workers, who provide outreach services to poor families. Some of these cases are pending before the State Lokayukta, institutions providing redress into citizens' grievances by investigating into administrative actions).

Singh's death joins the growing list of RTI activists in India who have been murdered for seeking information to promote transparency and accountability in the working of public authority. They include environmental activists Amit Jethava and Sheila Masood killed in July and August 2011 respectively, whose killings resulted in demands - within the Parliament - for the protection of RTI activists. It is believed that Singh had sought protection from the authorities before his murder. Rajkishore Madhukar, a member of the National Campaign for People's Right to Information commented, "law enforcement agencies have completely failed to provide any protection to him."

A first information report has been lodged by members of his family and his body has been taken for a post-mortem examination.

"ARTICLE 19 condemns the murder of Shri Ram Vilas Singh and calls for a prompt and independent investigation into his death and for perpetrators to be brought to justice." said Tahmina Rahman, Director ARTICLE 19 Bangladesh and South Asia.

ARTICLE 19 also joins other civil society organizations in calling for the protection provisions of the Whistle Blower's Act, currently pending before the Indian Parliament, to include RTI activists. ARTICLE 19 also recommends that existing mechanisms for the protection of human rights defenders and others be immediately applied to RTI activists.

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