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Zárate v. Federal Electoral Institute

last modified Aug 21, 2012 01:37 PM

Case number:
SUP-JDC-041/2004
Country:
Mexico
Date of decision:
25 June 2004
Court / Arbiter:
Federal Electoral Tribunal, Superior Chamber, unreviewable ( Supreme )


Decision:

The right to receive information about organization, work, financial resources and statutes of political parties is an element of the right to information, which, in turn, is a basis for the free exercise of other fundamental rights. Authorities have to guarantee access to financial information of political parties, including monthly salaries and other benefits of the party leaders.


Keywords:
Open government principles (including accountability, anti-corruption, democracy, participation in government, transparency)
Political information (including candidates, elections, political parties)
RTI law

Case details:

Facts

Jorge Arturo Zárate a reporter, asked the Federal Electoral Institute (Institute) to provide information about: 1) the monthly salaries or income received by the chairmen or national leaders of all political parties, 2) monthly salaries of the members of their national executive committees or their national leadership commissions and 3) other work-related benefits. The Institute denied the request on the ground that it did not hold such information (pp. 1-2). After the Commission for Transparency and Access to Information of the Federal Electoral Institute upheld the Institute’s decision,  Zárate appealed to the Federal Electoral Tribunal (p. 14).

Decision

The Tribunal recognized that access to information is a basis for the exercise of other fundamental rights. A citizen is unable to exercise his rights enshrined in the Mexican Constitution, in particular, the right to free and democratic participation in society and in the life of the state, if he or she does not receive timely access to complete up-to-date information. (pp. 46-47).

One of the purposes of the Federal Transparency and Access to Public Government Information Law (RTI Law) is to ensure that society has a real possibility to monitor government activities (p. 45). Given that political parties are political associations of citizens receiving considerable public funding, they should also be subject to public scrutiny (p. 45).

Relying on Article 19(2) of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, and Article 13(1) of the American Convention on Human Rights, the Court held that all Mexican citizens have a right to receive information about organization, work, financial resources and statutes of political parties (pp. 33-34).

Even though political parties are not expressly listed as a subject of the RTI Law (Article 3), the Federal Electoral Institute in fact collects and stores information regarding their organization and financial data. The procedure for collecting information is laid down in the guidelines approved by the General Council of the Federal Electoral Institute. Thus the Federal Electoral Institute was able to meet the applicant’s request, especially given the fact that the requested information was not confidential (pp. 82-84).

Note

The summary was written based on Jaime Cárdenas Gracia’s Access to Information on Political Parties, Comparative Media Law Journal, Number 6, 2005, and Annual Report of the Office of the Special Rapporteur for Freedom of Expression 2004, OAS, 2004

Resources:

Judgment of the Tribunal.