El Salvador now 5th in the World for Access to Public Information
According to the latest Right to Information (RTI) rating, El Salvador now ranks among the top five nations worldwide with the greatest access to public information. The RTI index, a project of Access Info Europe and the Center for Law and Democracy, evaluates the 93 countries with laws regulating information access according to the rigor of that legislation. El Salvador’s notable position is all the more striking given that it has never even been eligible for such an index until the current administration’s term because policies regulating access to public information did not exist before.
The ranking serves as recognition for the unprecedented transparency measures passed under El Salvador’s first leftist government, led by the Farabundo Martí National Liberation Front (FMLN) party. An “Access to Public Information Law” that was based on an FMLN initiative presented to the Legislative Assembly in 2008 and a similar project drafted by Salvadoran NGOs in 2009 was finally approved under the leadership of the FMLN in 2011. It establishes standards for petitioning specific information from government bodies and mandates that all state institutions, from municipal governments to ministries, provide free, available accounts of their spending and activities, and that these institutions present a published summary of this information annually to the press and public. All ministries now give regular public presentations reporting on their activities and use of funds.
“The law seeks to facilitate access to information for the population; this public spending watchdog will help us combat corruption, and as the governing party we are interested in transparency, combating corruption and, above all, ensuring that this human right of access to information is effective,” said FMLN legislator Jaime Valdez.
On September 29, President Funes announced on his weekly radio address that under the Transparency Law, his administration has released over 87,000 documents to the public and responded to 98% of the 2,314 citizen requests for information. In so doing, the FMLN-Funes government is fulfilling a campaign promise of increasing state transparency while removing the shroud of secrecy that has protected past corruption by public functionaries and setting a precedent of public supervision of the country’s democratic institutions.