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Civil society movement for access to information launched; two draft bills in process

(ARTICLE 19/IFEX) - The following is a 26 April 2007 ARTICLE 19 press release:

Civil Society Movement for Access to Information Launched in Brazil

ARTICLE 19 releases today a report on the results of the seminar Access to Information as a Tool for Social Change which took place on March 30, 2007 in São Paulo, Brazil. Forty-five of Brazil's main NGOs participated in the event that launched a civil society movement for access to public information in the country.

The report describes the main discussions that took place during the meeting, providing a diagnosis of the current situation of freedom of information in the county and an overview of the main obstacles to the realization of the right to know. Participants identified an overwhelming culture of secrecy within Brazilian public administration, civil servants' tendency to appropriate public information as theirs, the lack of quality (accuracy and completeness) of information provided, unnecessary decentralization of data sources and excessive bureaucracy in the functioning of public bodies as some of the main challenges faced by those in the struggle for a more transparent government.

Participants proposed a number of actions to be taken by the movement to advance an access to information agenda which include: disseminate the importance of access to information as a right among civil society organizations and citizens; design strategic collective actions to press the government to provide information not yet available and to centralize and integrate sparse data currently available; map existing public and private initiatives on access to information and related topics, such as public participation and monitoring, corruption and social control of public budgets; and campaign for access to information laws at the local and national levels.

Brazilian Federal Constitution guarantees the right to information to all persons within its territory, but the constitutional provision lacks regulation in order to become fully operational. A draft bill is currently pending before Congress and a different draft proposal is now in the hands of President Lula, who during the 2006 electoral campaign pledged to present a draft bill on the topic to Congress if re-elected.

The civil society movement launched during the seminar organized by ARTICLE 19 will coordinate its efforts with the initiatives of the National Forum on Access to Information that launched a Parliamentarians' Front for Access to Public Information on March 29 to push from within Congress for the approval of an access to information law at the national level.

The seminar marks the opening of ARTICLE 19's new office in Brazil, based in the city of São Paulo.

For a copy of the report in Portuguese go to:

ARTICLE 19 is an independent human rights organisation that works globally to protect and promote the right to freedom of expression. It takes its name from Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which guarantees free speech.

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