Mexican Senate Approves New Access Legislation

19 March 2015

The Mexican Senate on March 18 approved a new access to information bill.

The final bill does not include 77 of the 81 last-minute amendments urged by the government which had aroused strenuous objections, according to the Alejandro Gonzalez, the Executive Director of a Mexican civil society organization, Gestión Social y Cooperación (GESOC.)

Gonzalez had co-authored a criticism of the government’s proposals in his other capacity, as a representative of the civil society organizations serving on the Steering Committee of the Open Government Partnership, the international group of which Mexico is now the lead chair. (See previous Freedominfo.org article.)

“Only one proposal from the original bill was clearly kicked out,” Gonzalez reported. This concerning the obligation of all public officials to make full public declaration of assets and interests. “Here the senators’ rational for exclusion was that this is an issue already been considered in the bill of the National Anticorruption System that is being now legislated by the senators.”

While most of the government’s proposals were dropped, on a few middle-ground positions were developed, he said.

“At the end of the day, this might no be a perfect law,” Gonzalez told FreedomInfo.org in an e-mail, “but I have no doubt that it puts in place the strongest and most progressive institutional arrangement of the world (in a non-Westminster political regime) to guarantee people’s right to know, and OGP timely intervention was key to achieve this goal.”

Alternative View From Article 19

Not everyone is as satisfied with the outcome.

The bill contains some “particularly worrying” provisions, according to David Mora, who works in Mexico for Article 19, the London-based free expression group. (See commentary in FreedomInfo.org.)

Mora expressed concern that “in a conflict between laws, openness and transparency does not prevail. Among other continuing objections, Mora said the bill increases the options for classification of information, reduces the potential for information about human rights violations.

Senate Passage Nearly Unanimous

The bill implements constitutional amendment made last year, giving more autonomy to the Federal Institute of Access to Information (IFAI) and making other reforms. See text (in Spanish). This draft contains the details of the debate as well as the Bill sent to the Executive (which begins in page 297). The legislation now goes to the Executive who is in charge of its publication in the Official Report (“Diario Oficial de la Federación”).

The General Law of Transparency and Access to Public Information, passed almost unanimously, also obligates public and private agencies as well as unions and trusts to release public information. The Supreme Court is exempted from this obligation.

The Mexican Congress is not yet subject to the obligations of the new law. The Congress gave itself five months to elaborate an administrative reorganization program to assume the transparency obligations. “This could take up to two years” said Senator Corral Jurado from PAN, according to La Jornado.

Gonzalez also noted that “the process was re-channeled from an obscured forth and back negotiation between some senators and the legal department from the President’s Office to an open, public and very well structured process….”

All public hearings (and even the work in commissions from the senators) were broadcasted live in the “Canal del Congreso” (our “C-span”) and are available to be consulted “on demand” here.

 

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