Freedom of Information Celebration

The Inter-American Court of Human Rights has declared that everyone has the right to access to states’ public interest data. This is the first precedent when an international court admits such a wide range of human rights.

The story began on 6 May 1998, three environmental activists, including one member of the Chilean parliament, filed an access to information request with the Chilean government for copies of the background and environmental checks on US-based company Trillium Corporation which had started a major logging project in the native lenga forest of the Chilean part of Tierra del Fuego, in the Rio Condor valley. The Chilean courts had dismissed the case, so the environmental activists turned to the Inter-American Court of Human Rights.

Legal background

The 13. Article of the American Convention of Human Rights similarly to the 10. Article of the European Convention of Human Rights regulates the Access to Information as being a part of the Freedom of Expression.

The decree of the Court

According to the court’s decree Freedom of Information:

- guarantees the right of accessing to public interest data to everyone;

- obliges the government to publish requested information or justify its reasons in case of refusing to publish data;

- the one who request the data does not have to clarify the motivation of the request;

- can only be limited according to the Convention (in case of protecting others’ rights, national security, public security, public health and public moral) and only when it is considered to be commensurable measure and only restricts the Freedom of Information to a necessary extent (the state itself has to prove it).

The Court has also declared that states also have to abolish their rules restricting Freedom of Information and they also have to adopt rules related to it. These rules have to dispose of restricting the Freedom of Information. These restrictions have to be in accordance with the Convention.

Considering all these above, the Inter-American Court of Human Rights published its unanimous decision on 11 Oct 2006 in which Chile was seriously criticized for breaching the 13. Article of the Convention and also was obliged to publish the requested data or either justify the denial. And the Court has also ordered Chile to eliminate an adequate regulation system on access to information and teach public officers in relation with it.

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