Groups Condemn Amendments Passed by Mexican House

22 August 2013

Supporters of Mexico‘s freedom of information law are slamming a legislative change approved by several congressional committee that would make the Supreme Court the final legal authority in some instances instead of the Federal Institute for Access to Information (IFAI).

In a statement issued Aug. 21, the Transparency Collective and México Informate, a coalition 15 concerned s organizations, and others issued a statement expressing “profound concern with the terms of the Reform Proposal issued by the Congress’ Constitutional Committee, Transparency Committee, and Regulatory and Parliamentary Practices Committee.”

“After a long, opaque and unclear legislative process,” the statement says, a reform proposal with some features considered positive, was “gravely changed for the worse.”

“The result of the discussion is a proposal that limits the right of citizens to access government information, and is diametrically opposed to what was originally drafted by the Senate,” according to the statement, which goes on to question the stated commitment to more transparency by the president and his party.

Some steps at amending the law began last year, and continued earlier this year before  running into objections.

Summarizing recent developments, the statement says:

Even though certain information pointed to a possible consensus amongst the opposing parties, right wing National Action Party (PAN) and left wing Revolutionary Democratic Party (PRD), which would block the passing of the proposal, the wavering irresolution of the PRD allowed the proposal to acquire enough votes in its favor, and pass. If PRD had resolved to ally with PAN, already blocking the reform, these major setbacks could have been avoided. 

On Aug. 20,  the congressional committees “approved provisions that would allow judicial review to the originally definitive IFAI’s decisions, in a series of broad and vague exceptions.”

The amendments would give the president’s Legal Advisor, the State General Attorney, the President of the Human Rights Commission and the President of the Central Bank the authority to contest IFAI decisions under that could affect “safety, economic stability and the protection of human rights.”

The groups commented, “This means subjecting basic human rights to a judicial process, delaying the time frame in which public information may be made available.”

The statement says further:

Other changes the House of Representatives made to the Original Reform Proposal include:

  • ·         That although political parties may be subject to the law, they will be so in a different regime, supervised by the Federal Electorate Institute, maintaining an asymmetrical relationship between citizens and parties.
  • ·         IFAI will not be able to question the general constitutionality of laws, further hindering the preventive protection of the right of access to information.
  • ·         The criteria under which the commissioners of the Institute are chosen are rigorous to the extreme, on a par with the criteria used to select the Supreme Court Judges, and this excludes the possibility of IFAI having a multidisciplinary and diverse composition, and closes altogether the opportunity to citizens, despite their level of involvement in their work and commitment to transparency.

The changes made by PRI to the reform proposal weaken the transparency framework and neglects the most sensitive technical demands of specialist from all fields: academic, governmental, NGO’s and civil society; demands that were initially expressed when the proposal was debated in the Senate.

The reform proposal that was approved by the House of Representatives on Monday is considered a backward step in the path to maximum protection of the right of access to information and a contradiction to Mexico’s international human rights obligations.

Civil Society organizations in Mexico call upon the Congress to amend the transparency reform proposal in the extraordinary plenary sessions. We also bid the organizations of the International Community to speak out against the exceptions in the Constitutional Reform that the PRI has crafted, allowing key political actors to dodge their transparency obligations. There is still time to ensure the effective protection of the right to information and the public scrutiny that is urgently needed for the consolidation of democracy in our country.

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