Improvements to Mexican Transparency Law Passed

1 April 2011

A handful of potentially harmful proposals to change the Mexican freedom of information law were defeated March 30 as a key congressional committee approved a package of more positive reforms.

Although approval by several other committees and the full lower body of Congress still lies ahead, and activists are concerned about the possible opposition from some in the current government, the deletion of certain parts of the Senate-passed bill was considered a major success by Mexican supporters of freedom of information. Their effort was bolstered by a targeted barrage of Twitter messages.

“The tweet war was very successful,” said Ana Joaquina Ruiz, researcher of the transparency and accountability area for the nongovernmental group Fundar, which organized the sending of tweets to legislators.

The action by the Government Commission of the Chamber of Deputies came after a long period of delay since the legislation was approved by the Senate April 28, 2010.

The commission ultimately opposed several provisions that were seen as potentially hampering disclosure.

One defeated provision would have upset the current authority of the Federal Institute of Access to Information (IFAI), by allowing another body to review IFAI resolutions, which are currently final and can not be appealed.

Also protected was the possibility of access to information relating to public trust funds and information about taxpayers who are forgiven by the government from having to pay back taxes. Trust funds mainly are used as a place to put money not spent in one fiscal year which will be used in future years. Claims of personal privacy and other exemptions will not be allowed as objections to disclosures when the use of public resources.

A provision that would have mandated that agencies consult with third parties whose information might be disclosed was also rejected. Such checks are currently allowed, but not obligatory.

Otherwise, the bill contains mostly positive changes, supporters say.  It conforms the law to several 2007 constitutional reforms such as mandating that the government engage in maximum disclosure efforts and that the burden of proof for nondisclosure should be on agencies. It also contains sections on personal data, and on how the government should organize its files.

Unless final approval occurs by the end of April, one activist told Freedominfo.org, it may be hard to get it through because of budget negotiations and presidential elections.

For a description of the developments in Spanish, see “Batallas por la Transparencia” by Lilia Saúl – National Coordinator of México Infórmate.

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