Access to Information

ACCESS TO INFORMATION Resolution of the Midyear Meeting Caracas, Venezuela March 28 - 30, 2008 WHEREAS The Chilean Congress recently passed an Access to Public Information Law that is awaiting final approval by the Constitutional Tribunal for enactment. The new law establishes that any exceptions to the law be determined by a “qualified quorum” but instead of defining the quorum under terms of 2005 Constitutional Amendments it reverts to pre-amendment terms which favor expanded classification and secrecy WHEREAS On January 9, 2008 the President of the Republic of Nicaragua published and enacted the Access to Public Information Law. To date, the law has no effect given that the Access to Information Offices established by the law have not been created and no budget has been reserved for that purpose WHEREAS Access to Public Information Acts have been enacted in the Dominican Republic, Ecuador, Honduras, Jamaica, Mexico, Nicaragua, Panama and Peru WHEREAS Many countries have allowed Freedom of Information Laws to expire in Congress thus forfeiting their representative duties and depriving their citizens of their basic right to knowledge. Argentina, Brazil and Paraguay are countries that have not acted expeditiously on their respective legislative bills WHEREAS Access regulations require that federal, state and local governments insist that their officials and employees provide citizens with the information they request about public activities. Without this, citizens cannot protect their other rights and guarantees WHEREAS Principle 3 of the Declaration of Chapultepec states, “The authorities must be compelled by law to make available in a timely and reasonable manner the information generated by the public sector… ” THE MIDYEAR MEETING OF THE IAPA RESOLVES To urge the Chilean Constitutional Tribunal to send the Access Law back to the Chilean Congress demanding amendments that align its terms with Interamerican and international standards, including a definition of quorum according to the amended constitution and established procedures for lifting time limits on classifications To demand that the Nicaraguan government immediately designate funds required to make the law fully operational and that operational procedures of Access offices meet established international freedom of information standards To call on those countries that have enacted Access to Information Laws to make certain the laws are properly provisioned; to provide for and initiate a public awareness campaign that will encourage citizens to utilize the law and take advantage of the system; and to create and foster a culture of openness and transparency To encourage legislators in Argentina, Brazil and Paraguay to reintroduce and promote new Access bills and to call on legislators that have no laws or bills in the legislative channels to introduce and pass legislation that meets international standards and guarantees their citizens’ basic right to information To state its support of the region-wide trend to adopt Access to Public Information measures and to welcome the progress toward transparency demonstrated by these moves To encourage elected representatives of legislative systems to protect their voters’ rights to information by ensuring that such laws meet international standards of transparency and to exhort judicial officials to interpret such laws in the same spirit.