Cláudio Weber Abramo, transparency advocate and data journalism pioneer, dies in Brazil

Brazilian journalist Claudio Weber Abramo, aged 72, died on Aug. 12 in São Paulo. A mathematician by training and a Master in philosophy, Abramo has been celebrated by his colleagues and friends as a pioneer of data journalism in Brazil and for his unshakeable defense of transparency and access to public information.

“Abramo's career in journalism was mostly dedicated to an obsession with precision and accuracy and to a tireless fight against corruption and in favor of transparency. He became a pioneer and a champion of access to public information," said Rosental Alves, director of the Knight Center for Journalism in the Americas.

In June, Abramo was one of four instructors to teach a free online course to more than 2,000 students about covering the upcoming October elections in Brazil.

"We at the Knight Center are very sad and surprised by the news that Claudio passed away. A few weeks ago, even during a period when he was enduring chemotherapy, Claudio was working as an instructor for a Knight Center course online, teaching how journalists could avoid mistakes as they cover elections," Alves said. "Generously, he offered students of the course access to a sophisticated database he created for his newest data journalism project, dados.org. Many journalists from different regions of Brazil took advantage of his offer.”

Journalist Luiz Fernando Toledo, a reporter at newspaper Estadão and participant in the MOOC taught by Abramo, used the instructor’s tool, Datascópio, for a report on congress members’ spending on services from campaign donors.

“I talked to Abramo for the first time to ask questions about using the DATASCÓPIO tool, created by him, to do a story, Toledo said. "I soon realized the enormous potential of producing reports with the foundations he had created. He answered me the same day, and the next day the problem was resolved. He helped me a lot.”

“I also cannot fail to mention that, if today I can produce many reports using the Access to Information Law, it was thanks to his fight for journalism," the journalist added.

Abramo was an economics editor at Folha de S. Paulo and executive secretary of Gazeta Mercantil's newsroom, as well as a journalist for other publications such as Valor Econômico, Abril Cultural and IstoÉ, according to Poder360.

In 2000, Abramo co-founded Transparência Brasil, an organization dedicated to access to information and fighting corruption. He was the NGO's executive director until 2015, when he became the vice president of its Council.

"We, who have had the honor of living and working with Claudio, as we called him, will be eternally gratefulfor the privilege of learning from one of the most brilliant figures in the country," the organization wrote on its blog. "He will always be an inspiration and reference of work and rigor."

Abramo was responsible for several projects from the organization that sought to use public data to monitor the performance of authorities of the Executive, Judiciary and Legislative branches. One of them, Excelências, an online database with information on judicial cases and parliamentarian performance, won the 2006 Esso Award for Best Contribution to the Press.

"He was the pioneer of data journalism in Brazil. Not one, the," José Roberto de Toledo, director of Abraji and Abramo's partner at dados.org, wrote on his Facebook profile. "Until the eve of his death, he was working daily to update and improve the new Cruza.Dados and Datascópio platforms, which, despite being in the beta phase, some journalists had the opportunity to test it.”

In a statement, Abraji lamented Abramo’s death and said that the journalist "was one of the most important articulators of the drafting and approval of the Law on Access to Information, sanctioned in 2011."

The entity recalled that in 2015 Abramo received the Abraji Award for Contribution to Journalism, representing Transparência Brasil, and highlighted an excerpt from his speech on the occasion: "Whoever works with this subject, information, has a fundamental commitment, and only one, that is with the public. No commitment to boss, with friends. It's with the audience. Whoever communicates information has a duty to do this in the most comprehensive and precise way, in order to — as the word says — inform the public in an adequate, correct way, not painted by personal opinions."

Below, read tributes from colleagues for journalist Claudio Weber Abramo:

"A rigorous disseminator of rights and truth. He honored his surname and profession as few have done. We journalists and society as a whole owe a lot to him. Thank you, Claudio."

Dorrit Harazim, journalist and columnist for O Globo

"We lost someone who the country does not know how to calculate the size of the loss. Because he never made a point of being recognized. He’d only need to have been more flexible for that to happen. But he never agreed to give in. And he did very well for himself! "

Juca Kfouri

"We have lost a fighter for the best causes and a friend of good journalism, Claudio Weber Abramo will always be an inspiration for those who fight for democracy, transparency and the correct application of public resources. In Abraji, the flags he has defended are still raised."

Daniel Bramatti, president of Abraji

"At a time when stupidity, a lack of empathy, polarized positions, and especially, foolishness about integrity and anti-corruption is widespread, remembering Claudio and reading things from him is a balm. Not only did he bring rationality to the anti-corruption agenda, but he always connected that agenda with the theme of inequality."

Fabiano Angélico, senior consultant of NGO Transparency International

"Claudio's persistence throughout the process was fundamental for the law [of access to information] to be approved. He was a person of rare, objective, direct intelligence. He had a great passion for journalism, always willing to help good causes. (...) It was a privilege to live with Claudio. He will be sorely missed, but he will continue to inspire me and all who believe in good journalism."

Fernando Rodrigues, director of Poder360