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APG urges Congress to pass Access to Information Law

(APG/IFEX) - The following is an abridged version of a 17 July 2008 APG press release:

APG calls for the enactment of Law on Access to Information

APG urges Congress to pass a Law on Access to Information Law, in accordance with the text agreed upon by the General Assembly in March 2008.

A bill on access to public records has been under consideration for the last eight years. Recent discussions were based on two distinct proposals submitted by Members of Congress Nineth Montenegro and Rosa María de Frade. The APG's Press Freedom Committee and other parties participated in a round-table discussion on the bill, held under the auspices of the Peace Accords, in March.

The General Assembly approved the bill but the project has faced opposition from members of the opposition who want to propose more changes to the bill.

The APG is concerned over these obstacles and recalls that:

- The right to access public and government documents is stipulated in the Constitution. Similarly, the right to information is upheld by a number of international treaties, ratified by Guatemala, such as Article 19 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and Article 13 of the American Convention on Human Rights.

- The right to access information and seek the truth is an individual right that has an impact on the whole community. The state should uphold this right by enabling the search for truth and the unrestricted distribution of information.

- Freedom of expression is necessarily linked to the right to information.

- Equal access to information would enable civic participation in the country's affairs and is the cornerstone for debate in a democratic society.

- Given the lack of confidence in state institutions, enacting such a law is a matter of national urgency. Promptly passing a law on Access to Information would be the best way to address citizens' concerns and raise public confidence. Shedding more light onto governmental affairs would contribute to the democratisation of the country.

- Guatemalans should have access to information that complete, truthful, and precise. The process for accessing information should be efficient and free of cost. The government should set up an independent body that will oversee this process and ensure that criminal or financial sanctions are imposed if legal requirements are not upheld. All individuals and institutions that manage state funds should fall under this jurisdiction.

- By increasing transparency in the country, Congress could reduce corruption, and improve the quality of life of Guatemalan citizens by ensuring that resources are used for the benefit of the majority.

Guatemala, 17 July 2008

Updates alert on the access to information bill:

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