Madrid, 12 April 2019: The Spanish government has announced a new system for identifying people who want to submit a request for information under the 2013 transparency law: you need to give your name, your official Spanish-issued ID number, your email, and your mobile phone number.

Access Info Europe, the Madrid-based right to information organisation, today criticised this system as it discriminates against any requester who is not a citizen or resident of Spain or who does not have a mobile phone.

“The right to information is a fundamental human right so everyone should be able to exercise it, irrespective of nationality or technical resources,” said Helen Darbishire, Executive Director of Access Info.

The changes to the ID requirement were a commitment under Spain’s III Open Government Partnership Action Plan after civil society raised concerns that the need to have a digital certificate to verify identity was too onerous (only 13% of the Spanish population has such a digital certificate).

The existing system of identifying requesters has resulted in very low levels of requests for information: Spain has just about 5,954 per year at the central government level, compared with 32,000 for UK central government or 99,695 in Mexico or 60,863 in Chile.

“It’s not just a practical obstacle and a disincentive, it’s a clear violation of international human rights standards,” added Darbishire, “It’s simply not necessary to know who the requester is since the only decision that a public body has to take is whether or not the information can be made public.”

Access Info noted that requesters who are not citizens or residents, as well as those who do not have a mobile phone, can make their requests in person at public registries or at embassies. This in person system is inefficient if, for example, an academic or a journalist from Germany or Argentina or India or Australia simply wants to submit a request by email, something that they can do for most other countries in the world.

Access Info called for a further simplification of the system, permitting anyone with an internet access to make requests, with the option of simply sending an email being provided in addition to an online form.