PERU: New freedom of information law approved

8 August 2002

On August 2, 2002 Peruvian President Alejandro Toledo formally promulgated the Law of Transparency and Access to Public Information, which was then published on August 3, 2002 in the official government daily El Peruano. Only minor changes had been made to the second draft of the law, which had been approved by the Peruvian Congress in July. While this law represents a major advance for the right to information, according to the Peruvian Press Council who spearheaded the campaign for freedom of information in Peru, the law has a number of defects that may pose problems in the future. Below is a critique of the final law, released by the Peruvian Press Council on August 6, 2002.

Press release from the Peruvian Press Council
(Esta communicado en Español)

The Peruvian Press Council announces its emphatic rejection of certain specific and essential aspects of the Law of Transparency and Access to Public Information, passed by the government last week. We consider that the right to access to information has been damaged which will legitimize the culture of secrecy in Peru.

Although this Law includes important advances for the right to information, these defects corrupt it seriously.

In particular, we call attention to article 15 which refers to the exceptions of the Law that grant the Executive authority to classify information as "secret and strictly secret" for reasons of national security. This can be possible through agreements adopted by the Cabinet and can be reviewed after five years.

We call attention to the inherent danger of a procedure that grants to the ministerial cabinet, an entity eminently political, the power to classify information as secret. In the past, secrecy in the name of national security has been used as a pretext to prevent citizen control of a democratic country, to hide irregularities and to evade responsibilities, causing serious damage.

We consider that the decision to classify information as secret should be regulated by pre-established criteria given by law. In case of controversy, the final decision would have to be made by the Judiciary.

The Peruvian Press Council laments that the Congress has not taken into consideration the suggestions included in the document "Access to Information and National Security", which was given to the pertinent parliamentary commission. The suggestions consist of specific points which are the result of prolonged conversations between civil society representatives and high ranking officials representing the Armed Forces and the National Police.

We, as well, objected to section (i) included in the already mentioned Article 15 which establishes that the Law of Transparency and Access to Public Information, which is a law of constitutional development, can have exceptions added to the right to information through a lower ranking law. Also, we are concerned because the Law does not take into account that the public interest should sometimes take priority over restrictions related to privacy.

Although the aforementioned Law includes important advances, once the public administration starts to fulfill its obligations under the Law, the Peruvian Press Council is available to collaborate in specific modifications of the topics at issue, which have already been criticized by the Inter-American Press Society and other international organizations specialized in the defense of freedom of expression.

Board of Directors
August 6, 2002

 

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