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ARTICLE 19 calls on President to annul resolution which violates Access to Public Information Law

(ARTICLE 19/IFEX) 26 August 2009 - ARTICLE 19 is concerned about the publication of a recent resolution by President Álvaro Colom that classifies as confidential, for a period of five years, files related to the communication of the Presidency, and between other public and private bodies.

The resolution UIPAPPR 1-2009 published on 14 August in the State newspaper establishes that "all the information" between the Presidency, the Ministries, government entities, diplomatic bodies, enterprises, international organisations and all state institutions will be classified. This is in violation of the Access to Public Information Law of Guatemala. This law establishes the principles of maximum disclosure and transparency in the acts of the public administration as obligatory and violates provisions that reserve public information. Maximum disclosure can be defined as follows "all information held by public bodies should be subject to disclosure …. this presumption may be overcome only in very limited circumstances".

This resolution also goes against the Constitution of Guatemala which establishes in Article 30 that "all acts of administration are public. Those interested have the right to obtain, at any time, reports, copies, reproductions, and certifications that they request, and files that they wish to consult, unless they deal with topics related to the military, diplomatic affairs, national security, or information supplied by individuals under the guarantee of security".

This resolution is contrary to international standards in the area of access to information. Article 19 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights establishes that "everyone shall have the right to freedom of expression; this right shall include freedom to seek, receive and impart information and ideas of all kinds." ARTICLE 19 is concerned that Guatemala's Executive Power is apparently resistant to transparency and a culture of open government for the country.

The resolution represents a setback at the national and regional level. In the Annual Report of 2000, the United Nations Special Rapporteur for Freedom of Expression stated that all information in the possession of public bodies belongs to the public, and that the law should require that other laws be interpreted, as much as is possible in a manner consistent with access to information laws.

ARTICLE 19 makes a call on the Presidency of Álvaro Colom to legally revoke resolution UIPAPPR 1-2009 and to effectively guarantee the right to access to information, transparency and accountability in the Guatemalan government.

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