Freedom of Expression

Press Release 106/04


The Office of the Special Rapporteur for Freedom of Expression of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) recognizes the recent promulgation of the Organic Law on Transparency and Access to Public Information in Ecuador as an important step to promote transparency of governmental actions in that country.

In June 2003, the General Assembly of the Organization of American States (OAS) adopted Resolution AG/Res. 1932 (XXXIII-O/03), reaffirming that states are obliged to respect and promote respect for access to public information and to promote the adoption of any necessary legislative or other types of provisions to ensure its recognition and effective application. For its part, Principle 4 of the Declaration of Principles on Freedom of Expression of the IACHR states: "Access to information held by the state is a fundamental right of every individual. States have the obligation to guarantee the full exercise of this right. This principle allows only exceptional limitations that must be previously established by law in case of a real and imminent danger that threatens national security in democratic societies."

In concordance with these affirmations, the IACHR and the Office of the Special Rapporteur for Freedom of Expression have promoted the adoption of laws on access to public information by the Member States, as well as effective mechanisms for its efficient exercise, with the understanding that the right to information in the hands of the state is a fundamental aspect for the strengthening of democracies. (See "Report on Access to Information in the Hemisphere" at ).  

The promulgation of laws on access to information is an important step to contribute to the transparency of governmental actions. However, these laws must also be accompanied by regulations and interpretations that are adequate to guarantee respect for principles such as the principle of maximum disclosure, a presumption of publicity with respect to meetings and official documents in any format, broad definitions of the type of information that is accessible, reasonable fees and deadlines to give information, independent review of denials, and sanctions for noncompliance. Even when all of these characteristics are present, an access to information law could be unsuccessful without the presence of strong political will to implement it and to give the necessary resources, along with an active civil society.

For this reason, the Office of the Special Rapporteur expects that the auspicious progress begun with the passage of the organic law on transparency and access to public information in Ecuador will be continued with practices and norms that respect the above-mentioned principles, among others.

Washington, D.C., May 21, 2004.