- Friday, 17 January 2014 00:24
- Written by AFP
THE Honduran Congress quietly passed a law allowing the president to keep government information secret, local media reported Thursday, prompting a fierce outcry from civil society groups.
The law allows the president and ministers to classify official information for varied time limits under several categories: 10 years for confidential information, 15 for secret information and 25 for super secret information.
It was passed by Congress without prior publicity, by a vote of 71 of 128 deputies, mainly from the ruling, right-leaning National Party, according to reports in local media.
Government intelligence chief Julian Pacheco justified the the move on local television as a law “to protect state officials who risk their lives to defend society.”
He said the media has revealed the names of numerous authorities holding sensitive information on organized crime.
But at a press conference Thursday, leaders of 15 influential NGOs denounced the law as “representing a setback in the fight against corruption… and interrupting a process to be a more open and transparent state.”
“We will go to the national authorities to declare the law as a violation of our rights,” said Omar Rivera, executive director of the Civil Society Group, one of the organizations in the alliance
“And if we fail,” he pledged, “we will raise our complaint with international bodies.”
He said the law aims to “supplant the Institute for Access to Public Information,” which is responsible for enforcing a law on transparency and public information passed by Congress in 2006.