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Municipal court affirms journalist's right to information following mayor's refusal

(FLIP/IFEX) - A municipal court in Caloto, Cauca, has ordered the mayor of the same municipality to turn over public information to a journalist who had requested it. The judge also noted in her ruling that, when citizens make such requests for information of a public office, they do not even need to explain the purpose of their requests.

On 19 July 2007, the journalist in question submitted a request for information regarding the purchasing of advertising spaces by the municipal administration. In his 27 July reply, Mayor Carlos Alberto Torres Luna indicated that the documents requested would be held back unless the journalist explained the reason for his request.

With counsel from FLIP, the journalist filed a legal action with a municipal court. In her 9 November ruling, Judge Ana María Herman Cadena ordered the mayor to handover the requested information, and noted that his refusal was a blatant violation of the right of citizens to information.

In the text of the ruling, the judge made it clear that public information can only be withheld if itr has been deemed restricted "by the Constitution or by the law". Under no circumstances could such information be withheld "at the arbitrary discretion of public servants," she elaborated. The ruling is in harmony with the guidelines on these matters established by the Constitutional Court.

In fulfillment of this ruling, the mayoralty of Caloto has responded to the journalist's request.

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