Organizations call on Brazilian president to speed up vote on freedom of information bill

The Forum for the Right of Access to Public Information, a Brazilian group of civil society organizations dedicated to the defense of freedom of information, sent a letter to Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff asking her to speed up the voting process on a public information bill currently being debated in the Senate, according to the Forum's website.

Nearly 20 groups signed the letter announcing their support for the transparency law's quick passage, including the National Association of Newspapers (ANJ in Portuguese), the Brazilian Association of Investigative Journalism (Abraji in Portuguese), and the National Federation of Journalists (FENAJ in Portuguese). The bill's passage "will be an important step toward a more solid democracy in Brazil and a respect for transparency and access to public information," the letter read.

The Forum is also in favor of the version of the bill passed by the Chamber of Deputies and several Senate commissions. Because of changes from the original bill, it will now have to return to the lower house for a vote. "There is a risk that passage of the bill could be delayed until 2012, a year with municipal elections. The speed of work in the Congress is always slower," the group said.

The Brazilian Constitution guarantees the right to information in Articles 5 and 37. However, these Articles do not address information considered secret. Several other unsuccessful attempts were made to end indefinite secrecy of government information since 2003. The current bill, presented by former President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva in 2009, still needs to be approved by the full Senate where it has been defeated many times due to disagreement between the government and former Presidents Fernando Collor and José Sarney.

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