An analysis by the Canadian-based Centre for Law and Democracy gives Puerto Rico low marks for transparency in terms of access to information and “open data” laws.
“Puerto Rico needs stronger rules guaranteeing the right to information if it truly aspires to adequately implement this constitutionally guaranteed right. Its current laws are much weaker than most national laws adopted in the Americas,” said Toby Mendel, the Centre's executive director, who presented the analysis.
The nonprofit’s analysis places Puerto Rico’s legal framework for the right to information in 87th place out of the 128 countries currently assessed on the Right to Information Rating, or in the least favorable one-third of these countries.
Mendel explained that the RTI Rating measures the strengths of countries’ laws enabling access to public information on the basis of 61 indicators divided into seven major categories: right of access, scope, requesting procedures, exceptions and refusals, appeals, sanctions and protections, and promotional measures. He stressed that the index measures the legal framework, not enforcement of the laws.
Among the key weaknesses identified in the Puerto Rican laws governing access to information were the following:
- Important gaps in procedures for lodging requests for information and responding to them.
- The exception regimen is too broad, so that only 23% of the possible points were given this item in the RTI Rating.
- There is no independent administrative body for appeals.
- The protections and sanctions system is very limited.
- There are few dissemination measurements to support good implementation.
“In 2019, Puerto Rico adopted two laws to guarantee individuals the right to access information held by public authorities (the right to information or RTI) in the form of the Law on Transparency and Expedited Procedure for Access to Public Information (Transparency Law) and the Law on Open Data (Open Data Law).
“Although this is a positive step, the rules on transparency in these two laws fall far short of international standards in this area. As a result, they fail to establish and protect an effective right to access public information for the people of Puerto Rico,” said the Centre.
These laws have a number of strengths and weaknesses, said the nonprofit, which focuses its work to promote democratic rights, such as the freedom of expression and association.
The two laws “create a clear right of access, are broad in terms of scope and establish adequate procedures for the making and processing of requests for information. However, the regime of exceptions is far too extensive, there is no provision for an independent oversight body (such as an information commission), and there are few promotional measures to support effective implementation.”