Court hands down another freedom of information victory

September 26, 2008

Costa Rica´s Constitutional Chamber of the Supreme Court (Sala IV) ordered two more public agencies to provide information requested by citizens.

The court ordered the Foreign Trade Promotion Office (PROCOMER) to provide to Erick Gómez information relating to a company called Las Brisas, which operates in a free-trade zone.

And it ordered the University of Costa Rica (UCR) to provide to Albán Bonilla information about staff salaries.

The rulings also ordered PROCOMER and UCR to pay the legal fees for the individuals who filed requests for injunction ( recursos de amparo ) after the agencies declined their requests. The agencies must also admit they were wrong in denying the information requested.

The penalties for violating the court´s order range from three months to two years in prison for the agencies´ directors or fines ranging from 20 to 60 days´ worth of their salary.

“The high court in its injunctions makes evident (these agencies) violated the right to information,” states a court press release.

Sala IV has been active in the last several months ordering the government to comply with Article 30 of the Constitution.

The court recently ordered the Oscar Arias administration to provide the press with documents relating to secret bond agreements with China.

Article 30 “guarantees” free access to information from government entities about “matters of public interest,” except when they relate to “state secrets.” The article does not further define either term.

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