María Jesús Cañizares – 28.03.2020
Miquel Buch, Quim Torra and Alba Vergés, President and regional ministers of the Generalitat / CG
Too much information is disinformation. Experts say it about the flood of data, fakes news, politicized information and rumors circulating on social networks and in the media about the evolution of coronavirus. Another thing are the official channels, which unlike the previous ones, seem to sin more by default than by excess.
It is true that members of the Catalan Government appear daily to report on the situation in Catalonia, sometimes several times a day. And that the methodology followed to measure the evolution of the epidemic varies from one country to another. However, citizens have the feeling that they do not have access to the whole truth and that the information that reaches them is biased, which contributes to uncertainty and even fear.
In other words, the opacity of the Government has emerged during this crisis, among other things because one in three requests for information from citizens is not answered, the media are exploited, and the agendas of senior officials are not published to avoid the pressure of some lobbies.
This is warned against by the Oficina Antifraude de Cataluña (OAC) – an organ dependent on the Parliament aimed at preserving the transparency and integrity of administrations and staff at the service of the public sector – in a report that analyzes the chronic deficiencies of the Generalidad in its communication policies.
A stagnant law
This should not be the case, since Catalonia is a pioneer in promoting measures to guarantee the transparency of its institutions, but according to the OAC, it is necessary to fully implement Law 19/2014, of December 29, on transparency, apply a sanctioning regime and offer understandable information.
“The latest evaluation report of the transparency law confirms a trend, already detected in previous evaluations, consisting of a general stagnation in its application”, explains the OAC in the aforementioned report. Likewise, it is found that more than a third of requests for access to public information are not even answered.
“it is essential that the various administrations increase efforts to
disseminate the right of access to information among citizens in a coordinated
manner”, as well as the strengthening of the supervisory functions of the
GAIP (Commission for the Guarantee of the Right of Access to Public
But transparency not only requires that the administration discloses information, but also that it does so “in the way that is most understandable to people and through dissemination instruments that allow broad and easy access to data and facilitate participation in public affairs”. This is established by Directive 2019/1024 of the European Parliament and the Council, of June 20, 2019.
One of the great risks is that the media are exploited in disseminating interested messages and arguments to pre-established audiences. The treatment that the different media give to the battle between the Spanish Government and the Generalidad over the measures to be adopted against the coronavirus is an example.
The Report of 10/21/2018 on public financing of the media in Catalonia, prepared by the Public Communication Laboratory for Plural Citizenship of the Autonomous University of Barcelona (UAB) documents general deficits of transparency and accountability and unacceptable spaces of discretion in the financing granted by the Generalidad and, to a greater extent, by municipalities and supra-municipal entities.
Control of lobbies
Catalonia was a pioneer in Spain in approaching interest groups at the regulatory level, but the OAC states that it is necessary to go one step further and ensure real publicity of public agendas and the lobbying activity of interest groups. This Office considers that the contacts, both face-to-face and of other types (telephone calls, emails …) of senior officials and of any public servant who has contacts with interest groups that may influence public decisions should be published. Something that currently seems unthinkable.