Court in Argentina Orders Senate to Disclose Data

13 August 2015

An Argentinian judge has ordered the National Senate to provide information about its budget, employees and their salaries.

A group of NGO´s (Poder Ciudadano, ACIJ, ADC and Directorio Legilsativo) filed two access to public information requests in 2014 before the National Senate. They asked for the budget allocated to the Senate during the years 2011, 2012 and 2013 detailed by month, parliamentary blocs and issues. They also requested the list of employees hired by the National Senate as non-permanent staff (or transitory positions) and the salary scales and wages in the same years. They asked that the information be provided in open data formats.

The Senate alleged that the NGO´s had no legitimate reason to request the information, that the urgency or damage had not been proved and that some information is published in their web page (list of employees), among other reasons.

The judge ruled that the access to public information is a fundamental right that must prevail in a democratic society because it allows for control the governmental activities, makes political participation easier and strengthens the exercise of other human rights. This view was shared by the Federal Attorney. The judge also stated that the denial of public information constitutes an arbitrary and illegitimate act within the framework of the democratic principles and damages citizen´s rights that carry a strong public interest.

The judge said that there´s a general agreement supported by law and jurisprudence to consider active legitimation in a very broad perspective, because public information belongs not to the State but to the citizens. Thus, the sole condition of member of a community is considered enough to justify the request. The decision obliged the Senate to provide the plaintiffs with the information requested (except the list of employees, which was already available in the Senate´s web page) within 15 days.

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