A mere three months after its introduction on December 2, 2010, the Legislative Assembly of El Salvador voted yesterday to accept President Funes’s comments on the Transparency and Public Access to Information Law. Despite minor differences in opinion among the parties on certain points of the law, it was passed unanimously (81 votes). This complete consensus comes as somewhat of a surprise, especially given the strong opposition originally presented by the PCN (National Conciliation Party), GANA (Grand Alliance for National Unity), and the PDC (Christian Democratic Party). However, commented the president of the Legislative Committee, Guillermo Ávila Qüehl (ARENA), “what’s important is that it passed.” This vote was the final step in the law-making process, and the law is scheduled to become effective in March 2012.
The law recognizes three categories of information: reserved, confidential, and public. Reserved information, which the government may refuse to divulge, is anything that could compromise national security or the public interest. Personal information about individuals (such as any health conditions, or religious or sexual preferences) is considered confidential and will also not be available to the public. What constitutes public information has yet to be precisely defined, but may potentially encompass all information which is not reserved or confidential.
The law now requires government institutions, and private entities funded by the state, to make information available to the public by establishing an accessible database of information, in addition to supplying inquirers with their requested public information. Additionally, the law creates a new government agency (yet to be appointed), tasked with implementing the law and punishing those who do not comply.