A Landmark Day in Chile as New Transparency Law Comes into Effect

21 April 2009

Santiago, Chile Yesterday Chiles Transparency and Access to Public Information Law (Law 20.2285) came into force, marking a significant step toward making the Chilean government more transparent and responsive to the Chilean people. The law applies to all levels of government, from the federal ministries to the municipal governments, including the armed forces, the police, and the public security forces. The inclusion of the military and police under the laws mandates is especially significant, given Chiles recent history of military dictatorship.

The law, passed in August 2008, mandates the active dissemination of information by the state and also requires the Chilean government to respond to information requests by Chilean citizens. According to the law, government websites should actively publish certain kinds of information, broad categories defined in the law itself. For information requests, the government must respond within 20 working days and must justify why the requested information must be withheld.

Perhaps the most significant aspect of the new law is the establishment of a Consejo para la Transparenciaa four-member watchdog council that will oversee implementation of the law and also rule on appeals. The Consejo has unique powers and an independent budget of $3 million for the first year. In addition to overseeing the implementation of the law, the Consejo will also serve as a court of appeals for citizens who believe that information has been unfairly or illegally withheld or are dissatisfied with the processing of an information request.

President Michelle Bachelet has appointed Juan Pablo Olmedo as President of the Consejo para la Transparencia. Olmedo is a prominent Santiago lawyer and founder of Pro Acceso, Chile’s leading right-to-know advocacy group. Freedominfo.org interviewed Juan Pablo Olmedo in anticipation of the transparency law coming into effect. The other members of the Consejo span the political spectrum and include Roberto Guerrero, Vice-Dean of the Law School at Catholic University; Alejandro Ferreiro, Christian Democrat and former Minister of Economy; and Raul Urrutia, a constitutional law professor at Catholic University, Valparaiso, and a member of the conservative National Renewal Party.

In a press release, Pro Accesos Executive Director Moiss Snchez notes, This law represents a very significant step as far as the recognition of the citizen’s rights, as well as the process of the Modernization of the State, to where not only does it contribute to the improvement of the mechanisms of social control, but also demands second generation reforms in materials regarding public management. The truth is, this law represents a true administrative revolution, and for that this 20th of April should be considered not the end, but the beginning of a process of continuous improvement that in the short term achieves the construction of a State that is truly at the service of its citizens.

LINKS

Transparency and Access to Public Information Law (in Spanish)

Consejo para la Transparencia

Freedominfo.orgs interview with Juan Pablo Olmedo

Pro Acceso

 

NEWS COVERAGE

Daniela Estrada, Chile: Transparency Law Opens Access to Information, IPS News Service, April 20, 2009.

New Law of Transparency and Access to Information Becomes Effective, La Segunda Online, April 20, 2009.

 

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