Honduran Secrecy Law endangers access to public information: RSF

The Law on Secret Information, discreetly adopted by the Honduran parliament on Jan. 13, endangers Hondurans’ access to public information and the transparency of their new government, according to various human rights organizations like Reporters Without Borders.

According to the new law, the president and his ministers will be able to classify official information and restrict its public access for different time limits depending on its category, reported The Guardian.

Information can be classified in four different categories: “restricted,” which means it cannot be published for five years; “confidential,” which could “create an imminent risk or direct threat to the security and defense of public order” if published and is restricted for ten years; information labeled “secret” for 15 years; and “ultra secret” for up to 25 years.

After the law is published in the official newspaper La Gaceta, Honduran NGOs will submit it to national and international organizations in an effort to have it declared unconstitutional, said Omar Rivera, executive director of Grupo de Sociedad Civil, to the newspaper El Tiempo. “This is a law that provides every condition for public officials to do as they wish with the national treasury,” Rivera said.

According to RSF, the secrecy law posits that “any information, documentation or material relating to the internal strategic framework of state agencies and whose revelation, if made publicly available, could produce undesirable institutional effects on the effective development of state policies or the normal functioning of public sector entities, is restricted. The power to impose this classification lies with the representative of each state entity.”

Rivera said the law seeks to supplant the Institute for Access to Public Information (IAIP), an organization responsible for enforcing a transparency and public information law approved by the Honduran congress in 2006.

The IAIP’s responsibilities would end up in the hands of public officials in charge of state agencies, who “will be able to classify information as secret without having to account their decisions,” RSF said.

National and international NGOs are worried about the law due to how dangerous Honduras is for journalists. In the past decade, 38 journalists were killed in the country.

Note from the editor: This story was originally published by the Knight Center’s blog Journalism in the Americas, the predecessor of LatAm Journalism Review.