Access to Public Information, Academic Freedom, Content Regulation / Censorship, Licensing / Media Regulation
Technische Universität Darmstadt v. Eugen Ulmer KG
Closed Expands Expression
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The Court of Appeals of Uruguay ordered the National Administration of Public Education (ANEP) to deliver information regarding the numbers on enrollment, promotion, dropout, and failure rates of secondary education students in each academic institution of the country over a two-year period. A journalist requested the aforementioned information before the ANEP, who partially denied access to it, arguing that the divulging of this information could result in the stigmatization of students, teachers, and educational centers. The Court considered that the aforementioned information was public and there was no reason that justified its classification.
A journalist asked the National Administration for Public Education (ANEP) to provide information regarding the numbers on enrollment, promotion, dropout, and failure rates of school students during the years 2011 and 2012. The public authority provided data on the “scholarly level” of students, however, it refused to provide the information for high-school students.
The journalist filed an action to protect their right to access public information. The first instance judge ordered the ANEP to provide the requested data. The public authority appealed the decision, arguing that the Education Law authorized it to deny the requested information as its dissemination could result in the stigmatization of students, teachers, and educational centers.
The Court of Appeals upheld the first instance decision and ordered the delivery of the information to the journalist.
The Court of Appeals of Uruguay had to decide whether the decision issued by the ANEP —denying access to information on school enrollment, promotion, dropout, and failure rates for high school students in the country— was properly justified, under the argument that disclosing it could eventually “stigmatize or discriminate” against students, teachers, or educational centers.
The Court held that, first of all, public information is defined in the law as the one “that emanates from or is in the possession of any public body, whether state or non-state” [p. 2]. Thus, only that which is defined in the law as classified or exempted from disclosure could be excluded from its public status. The Court explained that although the appellant argued that the requested information had been denied based on the Education Law, it was not inferred from this Law that the requested data was classified or exempted from disclosure.
Secondly, the Court said that “[t]he possibility of the journalist or the media misusing the information does not entitle the requested authorities to refuse to provide the information” [para. V]. It also pointed out that, in any case, the person requesting public information is not obliged to report why they lodged a request or to explain how they will use the information. However, the Court concluded that, in the specific case, it was not even clear, nor proven, that the requested data would be used for discriminatory or stigmatizing purposes. Thus the Court did not accept the appellant’s argument either.
Therefore, the Court upheld the first instance judgment ordering the ANEP to provide the information to the journalist.
Decision Direction indicates whether the decision expands or contracts expression based on an analysis of the case.
The judgment is in line with international standards on access to information insofar as it indicates that all citizens are holders of this right and are not obliged to indicate the reasons why they lodged a request nor how they will use the information once it is provided. Furthermore, the Court also highlighted the public nature of all information in possession of public authorities and that denying access to information requests is exceptional.
Global Perspective demonstrates how the court’s decision was influenced by standards from one or many regions.
Case significance refers to how influential the case is and how its significance changes over time.
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