Analysis of delays of implementing freedom of information law in Brazil, commissioned by Folha de São Paulo – English translation is below pic.



When in November 2011 Brazil approved the right to access public information, it joined the ranks of more than 90 countries that respect the fundamental democratic rights of their citizens. All levels and branches of the Union were required to adopt regulation within six months, by May 16th 2012.  Many entities, however, did not comply. By international standards, this delay is reprehensible but comprehensible; six months is half of what most countries give themselves to implement this important and demanding law. In Brazil, the law is unusually far-reaching; it is not only constitutional, but it also applies to government owned businesses and other entities that receive public money.

All of this still does not excuse non-compliant behavior, however, much less with respect to a law that finally makes good on a right guaranteed by articles 5 and 37 of the 1988 constitution.  When the CGU told citizens that the law “has stuck”[1] in August 2012, they must have never foreseen that eight months after the deadline for implementation, seven states and even The Department of Foreign Affairs (Itamaraty)[2] still stand in contempt of the law, the union, and its citizens.

This behavior is particularly inappropriate for subnational governments, which play a fundamental role in satisfying the most urgent everyday needs of citizens, including education, health, security, and sanitation. In the world’s most advanced democracies, subnational governments perform better on access to information audits than do central governments. They are more accountable. Judging by the CONACIT’s latest report, the inverse holds true in Brazil. If the right to information is to have real value for citizens, this situation must change. To implement the law, states and municipalities must enact regulation to apply the law 12.527, appoint information officers to coordinate and respond to requests, inform all employees of appropriate procedures, put into place information management systems, and comply with both the country’s archive (8159/91) and privacy laws (Lei 9507/97). Only then will we be able to pull the law off of paper and put it into effect.




  • Hi Greg,

    Interesting piece. Are there any penalties for failure to implement the law? Or does it need someone to make requests to each of the non-compliant bodies, have these refused (or deemed refused due to non-response) and then take it to the Federal complaints body? Or is that not an option as the federal law has no local effect (and therefore there’s no federal competence) if the local transposition measure is not enacted?



    • Hi Andrew,

      Good to hear from you and thanks for the comment. Pretty basic stuff, really. There are no penalties – at this point – for delays in implementation. But I have yet to look into that question a little deeper. The same goes for the appeals… it’s all still quite black-box, really, in terms of what’s going on. I am busy with papers right now, but we at the FGV university will be performing a FOI Audit later this year — then we’ll also be looking into questions of non-compliance, remedial measures and due process.

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