Government says it seeks to make more information open to the public

The central government says that it wants to improve the access of the citizens to public information in its agencies and institutions.

The proposals are consistent with a strategy for an open government as outlined by President Luis Guillermo Solís.

The government said that three concrete actions are planned for next year, including a proposed law that will improve the access of the public to official information.

Although this right exists in the Costa Rican constitution, Casa Presidencial noted that there is no specific legislation. Frequently those seeking obvious public information have to file a Sala IV constitutional appeal to get it.

In addition, there is a plan to train public employees on how to make such information available.

The third aspect is for the executive branch to issue a decree and directive that will provide access while the Asamblea Legislativa works on passage of a new law, said Casa Presidential.

There is now a Comisión Nacional por un Gobierno Abierto that has been set up with public and private members.

The open government proposal is linked to a survey of official Web sites that was released this week.

Some 105 Web sites from various agencies were studied for their ease of use, the information content and the ease of accessing the data.

Efforts to open up governmental records usually are frustrated by the desire of public employees to keep the information secret.

The United States instituted the Freedom of Information Act in 1966, but bureaucrats use nine specific exemptions to censor a lot of the information.

The United States also passed a privacy act that is being used to censor the names in released documents of nearly anyone who has activities involving the federal government.

Edward Snowden released vast amounts of U.S. government data that was classified. The subsequent publications showed how much the government was hiding from the public.

Presidential candidate Hillary Clinton used a private email server when she was U.S. secretary of State, and critics complained that she did so to hide government business from the public. The disclosure of this fact has forced the State Department to release many of Mrs. Clinton’s emails.

In Costa Rica over the last three months there have been startling revelations over the salaries and benefits of some government employees. Most of this information was known to only a select few until newspapers and television stations made it public.

The judiciary in Costa Rica has instituted privacy rules that basically prevent the public from finding out who is involved in criminal and civil court cases.

Court files have long been restricted to those involved in the actions and their lawyers, but now even the names of those involved are being protected due to a recent law.

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