Brazil’s New Access Law Underperforming: Article 19

17 May 2013

One out of three requests for information under the one-year-old Brazilian law were not responded to, according to a new study by Article 19 (English and Portuguese).

Satisfactory answers were received 44 percent of the time, the group reported. In addition, it said, the quality of the information supplied was poor, often containing partial information.

The study found that most of the cases brought before the judiciary under the new access to information law are requests for publication of public officials’ salaries. Of the 13 cases dealing with access to information decided by the Supreme Court, 12 related to the publication of salaries received by public officials. In most cases the court ruled for transparency, according to the report.

The full survey and study will be released at the event — “A year of transparency: uses and misuses of the access to information law” — to be held on May 22 in São Paulo, Brazil.

ARTICLE 19 monitored a total of 141 information requests since the new law entered into effect in 2012. Of this total, 32% received absolutely no response from the public administration (federal, state and municipal levels).

ARTICLE 19 created a databank that generates a series of empirical data about the access to information situation in Brazil.

Paula Martins, ARTICLE 19 South America Director, said:

Even taking into account that the period for adaptation of public bodies to the new law was short, the results are concerning. Most of the requests refer to human rights issues, data used by civil society groups and the general public for their daily work and decisions. The mere regulation of the right to information does not guarantee that the right will be respected and realised. It is up to civil society to participate in the process.

ARTICLE 19 also surveyed civil society groups. “The survey results show that most information requests have been directed to the federal executive at 46% of cases, followed by 38% to municipal authorities, and 15% to state bodies. The common trend in the responses was the high level of dissatisfaction with the answers.”

Conclusions Reached

“Brazil needs a unified and specialised agency to implement and supervise the observance and enforcement of the provisions in the new access to information law; an agency with jurisdiction over all parts of government,” Article 19 wrote.

“The data shows the importance of setting up standards, especially for proactive efforts for transparency, and strengthening internal structures in each body to provide information to the public.”


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