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Thursday, August 14, 2008

Chile Passes FOI Law!

Congrats, Chile!

State agencies will be obligated to provide information requested by citizens in a time frame of 20 days and a Council for transparency will be created to monitor the law. Pro Acceso Foundation had a leading role in the process of passing the law through Congress.

The Law on Transparency of Public Functions and Access to Public Information of State Agencies, was passed today, August 11, 2008, in a ceremony presided by the Chilean President, Michelle Bachelet.

This new law will permit to significantly reduce the “areas of reserve”, present until now in the management of the public administration. In fact, the law requires that all state agencies provide information to any citizen who wishes to request information within a time frame of 20 days, finally putting into practice the principles established in the political constitution that “the acts and resolutions of state organs, we well as the reasons and procedures they use, are public”.

Additionally, all state agencies are obligated to provide, through their website, up-to-date information regarding their structure, personnel, salaries, contracts signed with other institutions, transfer of funds, and the results of any internal audit conducted.

One of the central features of the law is the creation of a Council for Transparency (Consejo para la Transparencia). This institution will have the mission of monitoring the execution of the law recently passed, and defend the right of access to public information. Additionally, citizens who do not receive the information they requested will be able to go to this Council, who will then determine whether the information requested is public or not.

The Council for Transparency will have four members, who will be proposed by the President of the Republic and then ratified by the Senate. The Council must be established 60 days after the passing of the law.

One of the events that triggered the discussion on the need to have a law that guarantees access to public information was the verdict of the Inter-American Court of Human Rights in 2006 in the case Claude Reyes v. Chile, that condemned the State of Chile for denying access to information in the hands of the Foreign Investments Committee about the environmental firm Trillium. The presentation of this case in court was carried out by Pro Acceso Foundations, as part of its program on international litigation.

Pro Acceso actively participated in the discussions held by members of the parliament and other organizations linked to the theme, in the process of passing the new law in Congress. On many occasions, representatives of Pro Acceso, assisted the Parliament to discuss international norms on access to information and made multiple proposals which were incorporated by those responsible for the project.

Pro Acceso’s participation was also manifested today, through the participation of its representatives in the Ceremony presided by President Bachelet in the “Palacio la Moneda”.

More info here (in Spanish).

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