Panama City protests against resolution restricting access to information

Panama City, Aug 24 (EFE).- Civil society groups protested peacefully on Tuesday near the headquarters of the government of Panama against an official resolution that restricts access to the minutes of the Cabinet Council (Council of Ministers) for a period of 10 years.

“We are here demanding access to the information that we as citizens deserve. We as citizens must monitor the work done by our leaders and that is why the information cannot be hidden,” Irving Batista, secretary general of the Citizen Action Movement, told EFE.

Just over a hundred protesters gathered in a square in the old town of the Panamanian capital, where the seat of the presidency is located, some holding banners with messages saying “wake up Panama, this is not progress.”

Another protester, Feliciano Oliveros, of the January 9 Patriotic Movement, complained that instead of giving Panamanians, hit by unemployment resulting from the pandemic, the opportunity to contribute to the country, the government “formalizes a policy of secrecy, of lack of transparency, of not facing the people.”

The government issued Resolution 71 of Aug. 4 which declares access restricted for 10 years to information “that corresponds to the minutes, notes, archives and other records or records of the discussions or activities of the Cabinet Council, the president or vice president of the Republic.”

The presidency argued that the resolution is based on Article 14 of the current Transparency Law or Law 6 of 2002, which “exhaustively establishes a list of information considered to be of restricted access, empowering all state institutions and organs to declare it by resolution.”

That law also allows “the restriction to be lifted when the reasons justifying its restricted access cease to exist,” the government led by Laurentino Cortizo said, without specifying the reasons that led it to the issuance of the resolution.

“It is important to note that the rule exempts from these restrictions the information corresponding to discussions or activities related to contract approvals, which are not covered by the restricted access declaration,” the official information added.

The Panama chapter of Transparency International said on Tuesday that the government’s decision to restrict access to the minutes of the Cabinet Council “exacerbates the crisis of citizen distrust and is morally incorrect.”

Independent lawmaker Gabriel Silva presented a legislative bill to amend the Transparency Law and annul Resolution 71 in the 71-member National Assembly (parliament), in which there is a large pro-government majority, while at least one lawyer filed a lawsuit against the resolution in the Supreme Court. EFE


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