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Paraguay enacts new law on access to information and transparency

The Inter American Press Association (IAPA) welcomed the enactment of a law on access to information and transparency in Paraguay, but called on authorities in the South American nation to carry out an extensive public awareness campaign to educate persons about the new legislation.

Paraguayan President Horacio Cartes on Thursday (September 18), promulgated Law No. 5,282 "On Free Access By the People To Public Information and Governmental Transparency," which requires public institutions and officials to provide information requested by citizens, such as salaries, official trips and contracts, among other data that are not defined as secret.

The chairman of the IAPA's Committee on Freedom of the Press and Information, Claudio Paolillo, praised the action, saying Paraguay joins a favorable trend in Latin America and he hoped this would be contagious in other countries such as Argentina.

Paolillo, editor of the Montevideo, Uruguay, weekly Búsqueda, added Paraguay now "has the opportunity for this law to be effective, not a mere demagogic response, for which the authorities should design an extensive public awareness campaign with the objective that the people learn how to use the new mechanism."

The law will be implemented next year. It provides guidelines to Article 28 of the national Constitution "with the objective of guaranteeing to all people the effective exercise of the right of access to public information deriving from government transparency." It adds that "no ruling in this law shall be understood to, or be used to, deny, diminish or restrict freedom of expression, freedom of the press or the freedom to practice journalism."

The IAPA has emphasized the effectiveness of access laws lies in three fundamental points - education of the people so they know their rights and how to request information; punishment of those public officials and bodies that deny information and significantly, government comply with specific regulations so classification of information be only an exceptional matter.

In the Americas there are laws on access to information in Antigua and Barbuda, Belize, Brazil, Canada, Chile, Colombia, Dominican Republic, El Salvador, Guatemala, Guyana, Honduras, Jamaica, Nicaragua, Panama, Peru, St. Vincent, Trinidad & Tobago, United States and Uruguay. Mexico was the first Latin American country to have an access law following the holding in 2001 of a conference held by the IAPA, it being passed the following year.

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