Government repeals controversial information law

New York, September 27, 2001—After a barrage of criticism from the local media and civil society, the Paraguayan government repealed a controversial new access to information law that restricted the ability of journalists to obtain public records.

On September 24, President Luis González Macchi repealed Law 1728 on Administrative Transparency and Free Access to Information. The Chamber of Deputies—the lower house of parliament—already voted to revoke the law on August 16, while the Senate confirmed the repeal on September 13.

“We are pleased that President González Macchi repealed this unjust law,” said CPJ executive director Ann Cooper. “We hope that his administration will continue to support a free and open press.”

President González Macchi signed Law 1728 on July 16 (Read CPJ’s July 25, 2001 alert). The law ostensibly codified Article 28 of the Paraguayan Constitution, which states that public sources of information “are free to all.”

In fact, Law 1728 made it extremely difficult for journalists to obtain any public records and left a dangerous amount of discretion in the hands of the president and other officials. Paraguayan journalists also argued that public officials could take advantage of the law to hinder or delay newspaper investigations into corruption, and that the complicated bureaucratic procedures provided for obtaining official information hampered the media’s ability to report news.

With Law 1728 now repealed, parliament is considering new legislation to address the issue of access to information. The pending bill, drafted in collaboration with the local Paraguayan Press Union (Sindicato de Periodistas del Paraguay) and other civil society groups, would shorten the waiting period to access public information and require that all information be granted free of charge.