The Congress of the Republic of Guatemala is once again attempting to limit transparency and the fight against corruption, Transparency International and its national chapter in Guatemala, Acción Ciudadana, warn. Proposed reforms the Law of Access to Public Information through initiative 5792 imply serious setbacks to guaranteeing the fundamental right of access to public information and the exercise of citizen social auditing.
As such, we reject such reforms based on the following considerations:
- Despite claims in the text of the proposal indicating that it complies with Organization of American States (OAS) standards regarding the existence of a technical and independent body, throughout the document the opposite is established. The reforms would create an institution to which the appointment of authorities depends on the Transparency Commission of Congress, creating a serious risk of politization.
- The process of bringing the proposal was not sufficiently transparent. Current regulatory bodies such as the Human Rights Ombudsman office were not consulted.
- The initiative creates administrative procedures parallel to those that already exist in the Law of Access to Public Information, thus limiting the guarantees and defence that citizens have in case access to public information is denied.
- It proposes an administrative sanctioning regime that collides directly with the crimes that already exist in the Law of Access to Public Information (Articles 64, 65, 66 and 67) by reducing the penalties to simple fines, thereby diminishing the coercive power of the law and generating impunity in cases where public officials deliberately deny access to public information.
We therefore call on the Congress of the Republic to reject the aforementioned reforms because they lack technical criteria consistent with the Constitution of the Republic of Guatemala, and the Inter-American Law on Access to Information Model and its Implementation Guide by the Office of the Special Rapporteur for Freedom of Expression of OAS. We also call on citizens to actively defend their fundamental right to access public information, which is the main tool available to combat the country's high levels of corruption.
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