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Supreme Court limits access to information

(IPYS/IFEX) - On 15 July 2010, the Constitutional Division of the Supreme Court of Justice issued a ruling limiting access to public information, which is guaranteed by the National Constitution.

The ruling states that, "in the absence of an express law", when information is requested the interested party will have to declare "the motives or purposes for requesting the information" and the requested information's "magnitude" must be proportional to its intended use. It also asserts that access to public information is not an absolute right.

The ruling, written by Magistrate Carmen Zuleta de Merchán, is binding, such that courts throughout the country must be guided by it until the National Assembly approves a law on the matter.

The decision was made in order to declare inadmissible an appeal filed by the NGO Espacio Público regarding a request for information presented to the Comptroller General of the Republic.

On 13 November 2008, Espacio Público requested information about the wages and other disbursements paid out to the Comptroller General of the Republic and the comptroller's office staff.

After receiving no response, the NGO repeated its request on 11 February 2009, and was informed by the human resources department of the comptroller's office that providing the information in question would violate the privacy of public officials.

Espacio Público then filed an appeal on 12 August 2009, which was reiterated on 11 March 2010 and ratified on 16 March 2010.

The Supreme Court's ruling violates the right of citizens to request and be given access to public information as guaranteed by Article 51 of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela's Constitution.

IPYS condemns this ruling which places limitations on access to public information.

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