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Asked for documents got a bill instead

Report on corruption? No way, you pay for asking

Question: What have Spain done to fight corruption?
Answer: The government doesn't have to tell. Please pay €3000 for bringing the case to court.


The question was asked for the first time five years ago by a board member of activist organization Access Info Europe based in Madrid.
As a country that had signed an UN-convention on corruption Spain should prepare self-evaluation reports on what had been done every two years. These reports have never been made public.
Five years after the first request for the reports Spanish Supreme Court delivered a final answer:
The question was in fact not an request for information but a request for explanations, something Access-Info did not have a legal ground to expect.
On top of that Access-Info was ordered to pay € 3000 to cover costs of the court.
This part of the judgement has been appealed to the Constitutional court.

Paid the price
”It not a fine, but costs we are asked to pay having lost,” Victoria Anderica of Access-Info explains.
”We of course knew of this risk. We made our point and paid the price. But it's never the less surprising to learn how the court circumvented our request, especially since the Convention on corruption very clearly points out that the public should have effective access to information on how corruption is fought,” she adds.
A second twist to the case is that Spain does not have a law of access to information.
A proposed law is to be adopted in the Parliament but would most likely not had been of any help in this case had it been in force.
The proposed law makes exemptions for documents related to the legislative process.

Need transparency
As Spanish society has been severally hit by the economic crisis, the question of transparency is just one of many issues in focus for demonstrations, political calls and actions.
But, says campaigner Victoria Anderica:
”These things are related. We got the crisis because of a building boom in connection with corruption. People need transparency, and call for it, in order to fight for their rights,”
Access-Info is preparing a campaign to collect money to pay the legal costs for the lost case.
The campaign will be launched once the Constitutional court has decided on the appeal of the costs.

Staffan Dahllöf


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