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Department of International Law > OAS

Equitable Access to Public Information - July 2013

Panama high-level workshop on equal access to public information ends

The High-Level Workshop on Equal Access to Public Information, organized by the OAS Department of International Law (DIL) and the Panamanian government's National Authority for Transparency and Access to Information, ended on a successful note on June 27.

Taller de Alto Nivel sobre el Acceso Equitativo a la Información Pública en Panamá

The event brought together various levels of public officials engaged with access to information and the public sector as well as national and international experts and representatives from academia and civil society. They examined the existing legal framework in this field, using as reference the principles and rules of the Inter-American Model Law on Access to Public Information (Model Law), adopted by the OAS General Assembly in June 2010.

Last April, Panama passed Law 33 establishing the National Authority for Transparency and Access to Information, which replaces the National Council for Transparency against Corruption. Its language followed some of the guidelines of the OAS Model Law. Among other provisions, this Law creates the National Authority and assigns it the function of monitoring respect for the rights enshrined in the Constitution, regarding the constitutional right to petition and access to information, as well as rights provided for under international conventions, agreements, treaties, and national and international programs on incorporating and implementing prevention policies in the public sector.

Director General of the National Authority for Transparency, Abigail Benzadón, inaugurated the event, along with Ambassador of Canada to Panama Sylvia Cesaratto and the Director of the Department of International Law, Dante Negro.

The High-Level Workshop brought together government officials of the former National Council for Transparency, the Attorney General's Office, the Supreme Court of Justice, the National Environment Authority, the Administrative Tribunal for Public Procurement, and the Authority for Government Innovation, and from such other agencies as the Panamanian Association of Business Executives, Mar Viva Foundation, the Inter-American University of Panama, and the Association of Journalists.

Also taking part were international experts from Mexico's Federal Institute of Access to Information and Protection of Personal Data, the Regional Alliance for Freedom of Expression and Information, and the National Autonomous University of Mexico.

The workshop program combined panel discussions and working sessions on the main thematic areas of the Model Law, including the principle of maximum disclosure, measures to promote openness, publication schemes, production records and policies, public documents storage and safety, forms of access to information, cost, the exceptions and appeals system, the functions of information commissions, monitoring and enforcement of existing regulations, and the importance of training programs for officials responsible for handling requests for access to public information.

The workshop concluded with recommendations, including on information commissions, procedures and mechanisms for information classification and maintenance, the system of exceptions and penalties, and training programs for both the public sector and the citizenry, especially in light of the recent adoption of Law 33, its relevance, and the importance of getting citizens to embrace its scope and content.

The event was held as part of the DDI's project on Equal Access to Public Information, sponsored by the Canadian International Development Agency. Similar workshops have been held in Mexico, Dominican Republic, and Peru, with forthcoming ones to be held in Costa Rica and Colombia.

The Workshop presentations, the proceedings, conclusions, and information on the Project for Cooperation on Equal Access to Public Information are available on the following website (*only Spanish):

Organization of American States      Autoridad Nacional de Transparencia y Acceso a la Información - Gobierno Nacional - Panamá
Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA)

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