By Maira Magro
The Chamber of Deputies approved a bill this week that would make public information accessible to citizens. The text now passes to the Senate.
"The principal advance is the end of the instrument called eternal secrecy," writes journalist Fernando Rodrigues, president of the Brazilian Association for Investigative Journalism (Abraji). Currently, public records can remain under seal for an undefined period. The bill says highly secretive documents can remain classified for 25 years, with the possibility to renew that status for an equal period. The maximum period of secrecy, however, will become 50 years.
The bill applies to all levels of government (local, state and federal) and also extends to the legislative and judiciary branches. Every public office would be required to publicize annually a list identifying and counting all the documents it has placed under seal.
More than 70 countries have laws guaranteeing public access to information. In Brazil, journalists and civil society organizations have pressured the government for almost a decade to pass such a law.
See the site of the Forum for the Right of Access to Public Information, a coalition that unites diverse entities around the matter, and the page of the campaign Information is your right!
See this post in Portuguese for more reaction to the news.
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.