Friday, February 23, 2007

Honduran Transparency Law Questioned

Sources: Inter Press Service News Agency, A Murky Transparency Law.

Faced with Congress’s repeated failure to pass laws to increase transparency in Honduras over the past several years, during a rally on February 10, President Manuel Zelaya made good on a campaign promise by vowing to enforce a new law on transparency and access to public information that he believed will “make the corrupt tremble.” The march “For Integrity and Against Corruption” was organized by the National Anti-Corruption Counsel (CAN), an organization comprised of members of civil society, the business community, unions, and state agencies, and it attracted approximately 15,000 participants. The new law that Zelaya touted during his appearance provides for the creation of the Institute for Access to Public Information, an entity that will be responsible for regulating access to documents. It also outlines a time line during which documents must be declassified.

Despite their push to increase access to public information, however, critics are now claiming that the new law is a violation of international conventions on freedom of expression and against corruption. The head of the Probidad Network, Jaime López, cites numerous problems with the law, including the fact that the new Institute for Access to Public Information will not be independent from other state institutions. Furthermore, López believes that the law fails to stipulate exactly what types of documents may be destroyed to prevent them from being declassified after the ten-year legally mandated waiting period. Because there is seemingly no limit, López is skeptical that any documents will survive to be declassified.

Other critics point out that information relating to humanitarian aid, including the amounts of aid Honduras receives and the use to which it is put, may be classified. The law also only applies to third-ranking officials, excluding many high-ranking officials, including the heads of the three branches of government, from the law’s provisions.


(1) What role does increased transparency play in development?
(2) What are some of the barriers that lack of transparency poses to effective development? Are there impacts beyond the financial?

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