Wednesday, December 10, 2003

ARGENTINA: Presidential decree establishes freedom of information in the Executive Power

On December 3, 2003 the president enacted decree 1172/2003. This decree contains three different regulations comprising: (I) notice of proposed rulemaking procedures, (ii) access to public information, and (iii) publicity of meeting of public services controlling bodies.

The regulations related to access to public information are very similar to the text of the Bill that currently is being discussed in the Argentine Senate. The difference is that this bill covers not only the Executive Power but not the Legislative or the Judicial Power, nor the Attorney General Office (Ministerio Publico) or the provincial governments (in this case a new law must be enacted in each province).

The Regulations apply only to the Executive power, its agencies, and the private companies in charge of a public service or that receive federal funds (art. 1). Every citizen is entitled to require public information (art. 6). No specific interest is required. Access to the information is free, except for the cost of obtaining the copies of the documents (art. 9). Petitions must be files in written (art. 10). The requested agency must provide the information in ten days (art. 10) and in difficult case there can be a time extension. Access to the information can be denied only if there is a clear exception in the decree of if it does not exist. Denial gives the right to lay a claim before a federal judge who may compel the administration to provide the information.

Exceptions are provided in the decree for (i) classified information (ii) information related to the financial and banking system (iii) trade secrets (iv) information elaborated or related to the financial and banking system (v) information concerning privileged relationships (vi) private matters and (vii) information that may jeopardize life or health of individuals.