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Special commission presents amended right to information bill

(ARTICLE 19/IFEX) - 30 November 2009 - 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. In July 2009, ARTICLE 19 published a Memorandum analysing the original Bill, published by the government on 3 May 2009. The amended Bill contains some improvements but a number of ARTICLE 19's key issues have not been addressed. ARTICLE 19 calls on Congress to make further amendments to bring the law fully into line with international standards.

The amended Bill includes a number of positive changes, addressing three of our 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.

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 finalisation and adoption. ARTICLE 19 calls on Congress to make the changes set out in our Memorandum and Comment and we remain ready to assist in this process in any way that we can.

Click here to see the original ARTICLE 19 memorandum
For the new ARTICLE 19 comment on the draft bill, click here
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