Rights groups denounce permanent secrecy provision in Brazil’s information access bill

Press, legal, and human rights groups are united in their opposition to Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff’s decision to allow permanent secrecy for official documents as part of a pending information access law.

Among those who have criticized delays in the bill’s passage and the secrecy provisions are the Brazilian Association for Investigative Journalism (Abraji), the National Journalism Union (Fenaj), the National Newspaper Association (ANJ), and the Brazilian Bar Association (OAB), Contas Abertas reports.

The international freedom of expression group Article 19 joined Conectas to "reject the notion of eternal secrecy or confidentiality of public documents”. "The Access to Public Information Bill promotes public participation, transparency, anti-corruption measures and good governance…To delay [its] adoption… silences the voice of all Brazilians," the groups said.

Brazilian Attorney General Roberto Gurgel said any legal barrier to the right to public information – including the indefinite secrecy clause – in unconstitutional.

In response to this negative publicity, Institutional Relations Minister Ideli Salvatti said permanent secrecy would only apply in three specific situations: threats to national sovereignty, border security, and serious risk to international relations, the Blog do Planalto explains.

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.