Brazilian Senate committees pass information access bill

In a joint session on April 19, the Human Rights and Science and Technology committees passed an information access bill, which ends the state of indefinite secrecy for public records, the Agência Senado reports.

According to O Globo, the chairs of both committees opted to not make any changes to the language that had already been passed by the Chamber of Deputies, to avoid forcing the lower house to vote on the issue again.

The bill now needs to pass the Foreign Relations Committee and the full Senate. Current plans are for President Dilma Rousseff to sign the legislation into law on World Press Freedom Day, May 3.

Senator Walter Pinheiro said that Brazil would become more transparent if the law passes. “This is not a bill for witch hunts or to persecute anyone. It is for making information available and allowing society to monitor and scrutinize” the government, he said, quoted by O Globo.

The bill creates the following categories that stipulate how long information can be kept confidential: top secret (25 years, with the ability to renew for 25 more), secret (15 years), and reserved (5 years), Último Segundo explains. The goal is to establish the means for governmental agencies to comply with the constitutionally-guaranteed right to access to public information.

Note from the editor: This story was originally published by the Knight Center’s blog Journalism in the Americas, the predecessor of LatAm Journalism Review.