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CAMPAIGN SUPPORTS TRANSPARENCY IN BROADCASTING LICENCES

A coalition of civil society organisations and social movements, including ARTICLE 19, launched a campaign on 5 October 2007 to demand transparency and participation in Brazil's allocation of broadcasting licences. According to journalist and university professor Laurindo Leal Filho, "the Brazilian people are deprived of their right to know who holds the concessions and exactly when these concessions were granted."

Brazil's 1988 constitution makes broadcasting a public service to be operated directly by the state or via licence. To renew licences (after ten years for radio and fifteen for television), the communications ministry assesses compliance with legal obligations and presents an evaluation to the president. The constitution also declares Brazilians' right to know as fundamental, while specific legislation delineates public access to information in some areas such as environmental and budgetary law.

However, the coalition says it has been extremely difficult for civil society to monitor licence renewals, as relevant legislation is confusing and ministry information is incomplete and restricted to "interested parties." Thus the public cannot judge how broadcasters are evaluated and or participate in the renewal process.

In order to obtain such information, ARTICLE 19 and Intervozes (the Coletivo Brasil de Comunicacao Social, the Central Unica dos Trabalhadores and the Uniao Nacional dos Estudantes) presented a request to the ministry. These and other organisations also held a public demonstration (in the presence of two MPs) to launch a campaign for transparency in the allocation of broadcasting licences

More than 20 years after Brazil's military dictatorship ended, ARTICLE 19 said on 28 September, International Right to Know Day, that victims' families and human rights groups are still campaigning for archives from the period to be made public. Documents on the many disappearances in that period are still confidential and, according to applicable legislation, may remain so indefinitely.

When a 500-page government report on the hundreds of political killings and "disappearances" during the 1964-1985 dictatorship was released in August 2007, Human Rights Watch hailed it as "an important step toward addressing years of official impunity." Yet because the Brazilian armed forces have never opened key archives, it said "significant aspects of this dark history still need to be clarified."

Unlike other Latin American countries that endured abusive military regimes, Brazil has never prosecuted those responsible for past atrocities.

Visit these links:
- Campaign for transparency (PDF): http://tinyurl.com/2ff8ho
- ARTICLE 19 mission to Brazil (in English): http://tinyurl.com/2fshns
(in Portuguese): http://tinyurl.com/yvd8sx
- Human Rights Watch: http://hrw.org/english/docs/2007/08/31/brazil16783.htm
(16 October 2007)

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