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Article 19

Against a shrinking civic space: Defending transparency, the right to information, and autonomous institutions 


The Problem
The National Institute for Transparency and Access to Public Information (INAI) was created to protect rights such as access to information in Mexico. Its proper functioning is key to guaranteeing the right of access to information and other human rights. However, since the beginning of the current federal administration in 2018, the INAI has been the target of government smear and attack campaigns. These attacks include discrediting narratives and misinformation, threats to its authority and mandate, a 25% reduction of its budget, and a refusal to appoint three of its commissioners. Attempts to discredit and eliminate INAI leave citizens, particularly vulnerable groups, defenseless to exercise their right to information. It also has serious consequences for justice, corruption, and the exercise of other rights that rely on accurate information and the citizen scrutiny of government actions. 

The Approach
Since 2012, Articulo 19 and Fundar have collaborated in running the Observatorio Ciudadano Designaciones Públicas, aiming to enhance citizen participation in public appointments and bolster their independence. Amidst ongoing threats to autonomous institutions, the project's focus expanded post-2022 due to vacancies within INAI and sustained attacks against the institution. Monitoring processes nationally and across Mexican states, the initiative directly aids individuals, groups, and communities reliant on INAI services and implements a combined strategy of legal actions and national and international advocacy campaigns to defend it. Key actions have included presenting two amicus curiae briefs supporting INAI, organizing strategic citizen protests outside the Mexican Senate, presenting a thematic hearing at the Inter-American Commission for Human Rights (IACHR), and creating #LoQueDejamosDeSaber social media campaign to keep citizens informed about the INAI’s situation and share calls to action.  

The Impact

  • Created a broad coalition of civil society organizations, media, and academia that led the defense of INAI in the face of government threats. This group was key for defending the autonomous body and getting it back into session.  

  • Presented two amicus curiae briefs against the constitutional controversy filed by INAI. As a result, the Mexican Supreme Court granted INAI its request to meet with its four current commissioners and urged the Senate to comply with its obligation to appoint the three missing commissioners. 

  • The movement to demand transparency in public agencies has created pressure to support other autonomous bodies and government agencies beyond INAI.  

  • Raised national and international visibility of the executive branch's attempts to capture the autonomous agencies in charge of overseeing it.  

  • As a result of the session presented at the IAHRC, the Commission offered the Mexican State support to ensure that the INAI appointments take place and requested the development of a thematic report about the right to information in the region. 

The Future
The coalition will intensify campaigns to emphasize the importance of democratic controls for strengthening the rule of law and transparency. Their actions aim to enhance international visibility of Mexico’s challenges, expand networking efforts, defend pending appointments in transparency oversight bodies, generate evidence supporting accountability institutions, and communicate developments with the public through accessible campaigns.