Global Freedom of Expression

Valenzuela v. Undersecretariat of Public Health

Closed Expands Expression

Key Details

  • Mode of Expression
    Public Documents
  • Date of Decision
    December 21, 2021
  • Outcome
    Access to Information Granted
  • Case Number
    ROL C7283-21
  • Region
    Latin-America and Caribbean
  • Judicial Body
    Specialized Court/Tribunal
  • Type of Law
    Constitutional Law
  • Themes
    Access to Public Information
  • Tags

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Case Analysis

Case Summary and Outcome

The Transparency Council of Chile granted an access to information request lodged by Sofía Valenzuela Zuccar, in which she requested data on the number of confirmed cases of COVID-19 between March 2020 and September 2021, disaggregated by age and commune. Valenzuela originally requested the information from the Undersecretariat of Public Health who responded to the request by sharing a link to the resource “COVID-19 Databases” and claimed all the required information could be found there. After having completed an amparo process, the Council presented a favorable decision for the applicant, in which it determined that the obligation to search for and provide information cannot be delegated to the citizen. In addition, it ordered the delivery of the requested information with the necessary redactions to protect the personal data within the documents.


In September 2021, Sofia Valenzuela Zuccar requested from the Undersecretariat of Public Health, “the data of confirmed COVID-19 infections by commune and age, between March 2020 and September 2021.” The governmental institution, together with the Ministry of Science, Technology, Knowledge, and Innovation, responded to the request by sharing a link to the resource “COVID-19 Databases,” which “gathers official information in a standard format […], from the data sub-table, which was created under the auspices of the COVID-19 Social Roundtable […],” and includes all the information requested.

Valenzuela considered that the information she requested couldn’t be found in the aforementioned databases. Valenzuela filed an amparo action against the Undersecretariat of Public Health, alleging a violation of her right to access public information, as a result of the non-delivery of the information within the specifications with which it was requested.

The Chilean Transparency Council, after having studied the case in question, analyzed the claim and ordered the Undersecretariat of Public Health to deliver the requested information within five working days from the notification of the decision. 

Decision Overview

The Council for Transparency of Chile had to analyze whether the state violated a person’s right of access to public information by providing access to a database with general information about COVID-19 without pointing out how to view the required specific information, and whether granting this specific information is compatible with an adequate protection of personal data regarding sensitive information related to COVID-19. To reach its conclusion, this body examined the state obligations as laid out by the right of access to information, particularly those enshrined in the Transparency Act.

According to the Council, Article 15 of the Transparency Act allows the administration to respond to access to information requests by telling the applicant where to find the information, as long as the source is permanently available to the public, to avoid unnecessary costs. Although the proviso of this article responds to the need to make the state’s resources more efficient, in the specific case, the authority did not indicate how the particular data requested could be accessed, so the response, in the Council’s opinion, did not satisfy the state’s obligation to search and deliver public information but rather assigned this obligation to the claimant.

Subsequently, the Council noted that the Undersecretariat of Public Health —as set by Article 9 of Law No. 1 of 2006— has authority over matters of public health, and, therefore, is called upon to respond to requests for information in a complete and transparent manner. These obligations align with the national obligations laid out by the Council in the 2020 resolution No. 211 on the COVID-19 pandemic, which highlights the need to, among other things, “formulate recommendations on transparency, access to information and protection of personal data, regarding the processing of background information related to the infectious disease known as COVID-19 or coronavirus” as well as “adopt measures aimed at informing the population.”

The Council for Transparency ordered the delivery of the requested information within five days after the notification of the decision. In turn, the Council noted that personal data, such as ID numbers, addresses, telephone numbers, and age, among others, must be removed from the information before its delivery, following Article 19, paragraph 4 of the Constitution of the Republic, Law No. 19,628 on the Protection of Privacy, and Article 33, paragraph m) of the Transparency Law.

Decision Direction

Quick Info

Decision Direction indicates whether the decision expands or contracts expression based on an analysis of the case.

Expands Expression

The decision expands the right to freedom of expression by providing robust protection to the right to access public information. The Council applied constitutional principles consistent with international human rights law standards regarding access to information to guarantee this right when weighed with the right to privacy and the protection of personal data.

Global Perspective

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Global Perspective demonstrates how the court’s decision was influenced by standards from one or many regions.

Table of Authorities

National standards, law or jurisprudence

  • Chile, Constitution of Chile (1980), art. 5.
  • Chile, Law No. 20,285 (2008)
  • Chile, Law No. 19,880 (2003)
  • Chile, Law No. 18,575 (1986)

Case Significance

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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.

Official Case Documents

Official Case Documents:


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