Jacqueline Perschad
Jacqueline Perschad has been director of IFAI since 2007. Creative Commons

Mexico's transparency laws, once one of the most advanced of its kind in the world, are in danger. The Mexican Congress passed a series of amendments on Monday that could seriously limit the public's access to government information if the Senate votes the same as the other chamber did.

The amendments, proposed by the governing Partido Revolucionario Institucional (PRI), would take some autonomy away from the Instituto Federal de Acceso a la Información (Federal Instituto of Access to Information, or IFAI) in matters of security, economic stability and human rights. This would mean that any petition for information regarding one of these matters could be taken by the government to the Mexican Supreme Court.

The opposition argued that the proposal goes against one of President Enrique Peña Nieto’s central promises in his inaugural speech: to guarantee the full transparency of the government. They also criticized how the amendments were presented, since they were initially supposed to make the institution more transparent, not less.

“The process was obscure, closed, and with no public consultation,” said México Infórmate, a nongovernmental organization, in a statement.

Jacqueline Peschard, director of the IFAI, told Mexican newspaper El Universal that “the government’s intention is to guarantee a better handling of sensible matters, such as national security.”

IFAI President Gerardo Laveaga said he is not against the Supreme Court looking over IFAI’s shoulder, but he wondered whether it would make the institution more functional.

Ana Cristina Ruelas, an activist with Artículo 19, said the measure would be an attack on such civil rights as access to free information. “The government could deny giving out information, and even bring the petitioner to the Supreme Court,” she said.

Ruelas criticized the ambiguity of the proposal. “The issues that it encompasses are not well defined,” she told Spanish newspaper El País. “Say, our petition from the government to disclose info on the investigations on the slaughter of 72 immigrants in Tamaulipas -- is that considered national security?”

The Senate has not yet ratified the amendments.