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Brazil’s Right to Information Bill Still Far from International Standard

Época magazine An amended version of the Brazilian draft Bill on Access to Information has been presented for public consultation by the Special Commission tasked by the Lower House of Congress with revising it. The original Bill was published by the government on May 3, 2009.

The amended Bill contains some improvements but a number of key issues have raised by the critics of the measure, including freedom of the press international organization Article 19, have not been addressed. The way it is the legislation is still far from  international standards.

The amended Bill includes a number of positive changes, addressing three recommendations – adding a clear definition of the public bodies covered by the law; requiring a list of classified documents to be published; and identifying a central body with responsibility for undertaking promotional activities – along with a variety of other new positive measures.

Commenting on the revision, Article 18 issue a note stating: "While we welcome these positive changes, more needs to be done to ensure that the Bill gives full effect to the right to information. The appeals procedure has been strengthened but it still fails to establish an independent body to consider appeals against refusals to provide access to information. The experience of other countries demonstrates that such a body is essential to the success of a right to information law.

Other issues that still need to be addressed include:
– to provide for more extensive routine disclosure obligations;
– to provide for a central set of fees for standard charges, and for fee waivers for requests in the public interest;
– to clarify that requests for information will be assessed against the regime of exceptions set out in the law, and not whether a document is classified; and
– to introduce a public interest override.

The Bill now goes to Congress for finalization and adoption.

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