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JOURNALISM IN THE AMERICAS Blog

Journalists lead public information requests in first 18 months of Brazil’s new transparency law, official says




Por Louise Rodrigues*

Jorge Hage Sobrinho presents the federal government's report on Brazil's new access to information law. Photo: Louise Rodrigues.

Of the 124,394 applications received during the first 18 months since Brazil’s new Law of Access to Information (LAI) went into effect, 5.15 percent came from journalists, according to Brazil’s Inspector General Jorge Hage.

The percentage translates to more than 6,000 requests made by media outlets, which constitutes an average of 343.7 LAI applications a month.

The data were presented at the round table "Law on Access to Information: Balance of 18 months," which took place on Monday, Oct. 14 at the Pontifical Catholic University in Rio de Janeiro. The discussion was part of the Global Conference on Investigative Journalism, which ended last week.

Out of their 6,187 applications, 88 percent were accepted, 9 percent were denied and 3 percent were deemed duplicated requests, unanswerable due to inexistent information, or the competence of other government agencies.

Compared to other applicants, journalists are also using the access law’s appeal mechanism the most: about 6.5 percent of appeals belong to them.

According to the Hage, the main reasons officials denied requests were because of classified and confidential information, personal data, confidential information according to specific legislation, overly broad or incomprehensible requests, applications that require further processing of data, requests on unresolved, ongoing processes and disproportionate requests.

Between May 2012 and October 2013, since the law went into effect, the average response time was 12 days, according to the Office of the Inspector General (UGC).

The balance sheet also showed that the ministries of Foreign Affairs (MAE), Finance (MF), Health (MS), Justice (MJ) and the Caixa Economica Federal (CEF) are the agencies most sought after by journalists.

General Information

During his session, Hage presented a "timeline of transparency," a chronological summary of the major initiatives to ensure access to public information. Among them is Brasil Transparente, the most recent proposal, which aims to help state and local governments to implement the measures provided by the LAI.

The indexes presented by Hage indicate that during the last year and a half, 96 percent of all applications were answered and the rest are still within the 30-day waiting limit. Of this total, 80 percent of applicants obtained the information they expected and the remaining 10% had their requests denied.

*Louise Roberts is a fourth year journalism student in the School of Communication at the Federal University of Rio de Janeiro.

This article was originally published on the official website of the Global Conference on Investigative Journalism.



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