Access to Public Information
Bubon v. Russia
Closed Expands Expression
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The Agency for Access to Public Information (AAIP) granted an access to information request regarding the entry forms (pedestrians and vehicles) of the visits received by the President of Argentina at the Quinta Presidencial de Olivos from 2016 to October 2018. The request—lodged by Poder Ciudadano Foundation—was originally denied by the Military House of the General Secretariat of the Presidency of the Nation, which claimed that disclosing such information could pose a risk to the president’s safety. The AAIP decided that the Military House of the General Secretariat of the Presidency of the Nation, which performed security functions for the President, could not refuse to provide this information since no threat or danger was evidenced or proved.
On October 3, 2018, the Poder Ciudadano Foundation made an access to public information request to the Military House of the General Secretariat of the Presidency of the Nation, requesting the entry forms (pedestrians and vehicles) of the visits received by the President of Argentina at the Quinta Presidencial de Olivos from 2016 to October 2018.
On October 2018 the request was denied by the Legal and Administrative Sub-Secretariat of the General Secretariat of the Presidency of the Nation.
The Poder Ciudadano Foundation appealed this decision on November 8, 2018, before the Agency for Access to Public Information (AAIP), alleging a violation of articles 14 and 15 of Law. No. 27.275. Upon being required by the AAIP, the Head of the Military House argued that it was appropriate from a strategical, operational, and logistical point of view, to avoid the public disclosure of information of sensitive nature, with the purpose of neutralizing threats, risks, or serious and imminent danger. In other words, for the Military House, the public disclosure of all the visits the president received was necessary to protect the president’s safety.
The Agency for Access to Public Information had to decide whether the General Secretariat of the Presidency’s decision denying access to information about the visits received by the President of Argentina at the Quinta Presidencial de Olivos from 2016 to October 2018—under the argument that disclosing it posed a risk to the president’s security—was properly justified.
The plaintiff argued that in case there was any sensitive data in the requested information, following the principle of data anonymization established in Law 27.275, rather than denying all access, the Secretariat could redact only the sensitive information.
The Military House of the General Secretariat of the Presidency argued that it refused to provide the information because the request could be denied under the exception established in article 8, subsection j) of Law 27.275. This provision enables the public administration to deny access to information requests in cases where providing the information could endanger the life or safety of a person. Moreover, the Military House stated that it would not be feasible to redact, hide or anonymize the requested forms since the disclosure of the information required risked the security of the President and his family.
The AAIP considered that the Military House failed to justify the existence of a causal relationship between the restriction of the access to the information request in question and the protection of the physical integrity of the president. When the request was denied, as the Agency noted, the Military House did not explain how disclosing the forms of the official visits received by the president could compromise his security.
To further its point, the AAIP cited reports from the Office of the Special Rapporteur for Freedom of Expression of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights. These underscored access to information as a fundamental human right and held that exceptions to this right must be exceptional, expressly provided by law, pursue a legitimate interest, necessary, and strictly proportional.
The AAIP also noted that it was common practice to publish and disclose the list of the president’s visitors for public consultation. For example, as the AIIP noted, the Military House itself has broadcasted the president’s hearings through the media, which counters the argument that all information regarding the president must be classified.
The AAIP also referred to a decision issued by the Constitutional Hall of the Supreme Court of Costa Rica (Nº 03729 – 2015), which held that the entry logs to the president’s house are not sensitive data that pose a risk to the president’s safety, but rather administrative documents of public nature.
Although the Agency noted there was an available online platform with access to an Excel file with information about the president’s meetings, it considered that this platform was not easily accessible, as the file had many columns and in order to know where the meetings were held it was necessary to apply a filter. The AAIP also argued that a mere referral to a website does not satisfy an access to information request, following the case law set forth in the case of Garrido v. Ministry of Justice by the Federal Administrative Chamber of Argentina
Therefore, the Agency concluded that the General Secretariat of the Presidency of the Nation’s decision, denying the access to information request lodged by the Poder Ciudadano Foundation, was not duly founded since the reasons invoked to classify the information were not proven or accredited.
Consequently, the AAIP accepted the claim made by the Poder Ciudadano Foundation and ordered the defendant to deliver the requested information in a timely manner, using data anonymization techniques if needed.
Decision Direction indicates whether the decision expands or contracts expression based on an analysis of the case.
The decision expands expression because it reinforces the fact that restrictions on the right of access to information must be exceptional and dismissed if they are not properly justified. This, in turn, reiterates international human rights standards on freedom of expression, such as the principle of transparency and maximum disclosure, to which states must abide, thus fostering accountability within public institutions.
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.
This case did not set a binding or persuasive precedent either within or outside its jurisdiction. The significance of this case is undetermined at this point in time.
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