Access to Public Information
Dotcom Trading 121 (PTY) Ltd v. King
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The Mexican Information Commission (Instituto General de Acceso a la Informacion Publica, or IFAI) held that the Secretariat of National Defence (SND) must release the name and ranks of the persons who ordered the withdrawal and replacement of a press release related to an alleged rape and murder by military personnel as this constitutes public information. The IFAI reasoned that the SND must have known the name and rank of the person who discovered the mix-up, ordered the withdrawal and replacement of the article, and consequently instructed the SND to publish it because, under the Federal Transparency and Access to Public Governmental Information Law (RTI Law), public entities are required to publish full directories containing all employee names and ranks.
This analysis was contributed by Right2Info.org.
In March 2007, the Petitioner requested information from the Secretariat of National Defence (Secretaria de la Defensa Nacional, or SND), specifically: (i) Names and ranks of the people responsible for the removal of press article No.19 given by SND, related to the rape and murder of Nahua Ms. Ernestina Ascension Rosaria, crimes allegedly committed by military personnel in 2007, as well as the release of a new press communication with the same number, and (ii) the documents in which this order was given. The Petitioner further submitted that several media outlets had leaked how the SND had released an initial press release which was withdrawn and subsequently replaced by a different one.
After reviewing its archives, the SND responded that it was unable to locate any press releases that were any different from the version published online and that the alleged withdrawal did not take place. The SND did acknowledge, however, that there was a mix-up between an unauthorized draft that was mistakenly sent out for publication but was subsequently corrected and which gave way to disciplinary action.
The Petitioner appealed to theIFAI.
On administrative review, the IFAI said it was satisfied that there was no official information regarding the existence of two substantially different press releases, but rather that the press had corroborated the SND’s statement that the first publication was merely an unauthorized draft that was mistakenly sent out.
With regard to the Petitioner’s request for the names and ranks of those who pulled and replaced the first communication, the IFAI noted that the SND had already disclosed the name and rank of the person responsible for the mix-up. However, the IFAI also pointed out that it was the responsibility of the General Office of Social Communications to organize the publication of press releases, that no names from that office had been released, and that the Petitioner had requested the name of the person(s) who ordered the withdrawal of the unauthorized draft, not the name of the person who was sanctioned for the mix-up.
According to Article 7(III) of the Federal Transparency and Access to Public Governmental Information Law (RTI Law), public entities are required to publish their full directories containing all employee names and ranks. On the basis of this provision, the IFAI held that the SND must have naturally known the name and rank of the person who discovered the mix-up and ordered the withdrawal and replacement of the article and consequently instructed the SND to publish this information on its website.
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