Madrid, 21 October 2019 – The Community of Madrid has announced that it will henceforth publish proactively sanctions imposed on the nearly 500 old people’s homes in the Madrid region – sanctions for offences such as breaching food, hygiene, or care standards – but only after an investigation by journalists from El País newspaper, who had to win a case before Spain’s Transparency Council in order to obtain the information.

Access Info Europe welcomed the proactive publication of the data on the quality of care and standards in old people’s homes, noting that such information is absolutely essential for families when they are choosing which homes.

“It’s essential that any information which has consequences for people’s health and livelihoods is in the public domain,” said Helen Darbishire, Executive Director of Access Info. “When people’s fundamental rights are at stake, commercial interests should never be allowed to justify secrecy: the public has a right to know!

Access Info Europe also noted the importance of journalists using the right of access to information to obtain such data. In the first instance the Madrid Community spokesperson had denied access to the sanctions data, with both verbal and written refusals. The journalist then submitted a request which was rejected, arguing that other laws apply. The Transparency Council took a different view, confirming that the information should be released under Spain’s 2013 Transparency Law.

“This is a clear case when the right to information law should prevail over other laws and over the administrative reflex to secrecy,” explained Darbishire. “It underscores how Spain should take action to recognise the right to information as a fundamental right, in line with international standards and the jurisprudence of the European Court of Human Rights.”

Access Info noted that it has repeatedly called for the Transparency Council to be provided with more resources so that, as the number of requests and appeals in Spain increases, it is able to continue reach rapid decisions in cases such as this, where there is a clear public interest in knowing the information.

Access Info has calls on the national and all regional governments in Spain to publish data on sanctions on private companies, in particular where they affect issues of health. Access Info noted how the organisation Civio recently obtained, for the first time, data on restaurant inspections, also something that has direct health consequences.

Image: El País

For more information, please contact: Paula Domínguez, Communications Officer, tel: +34 91 365 6558