Access to Information: The Best International Practices and the Brazilian Experience

Access to Information: The Best International Practices and the Brazilian Experience

Monica Teresa Sousa (Federal University of Maranhão, Brazil & Dom Bosco University, Brazil) and Leonardo Valles Bento (Federal University of Maranhão, Brazil & Dom Bosco University, Brazil)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-4666-6292-6.ch007
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Abstract

Right to information means the right of citizens to have access to information produced by, or held by, public/governmental agencies. This chapter intends to analyze the legal grounds of the right to access to information in Brazil as compared to the best international practice. One of the main risks to good governance and democracy is the use of public resources for private purposes, and the development of new communication technologies, especially the Internet, has revolutionized the manner in which the public interacts with the information available, impacting democratic practices. In November 2011, the adoption of Federal Law 12,527 made Brazil the 89th country in the world, and the 19th in Latin America, to adopt specific legislation implementing the right to access to public information. In Brazil, public authorities, especially the courts, tend to accept easily the allegations of violation of privacy and defamation of those whose interests are harmed or threatened by the broadcasting of information. In the conflict between access to information and private interests, the latter has prevailed. In this context, the Access to Information Law has become a relevant policy to the Brazilian civil society to strengthen and consolidate a democratic political culture and promote institutional maturity.
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Access To Information Fundamentals

Demand for greater transparency in the public sector has increased significantly in recent times. In many countries, there is a trend of growing civil society's interest in information on public agencies and authorities's actions and performance, policy results, public budget expenditures and resource allocation, motives and criteria of decisions by regulatory agencies, etc. The principle of governmental transparency--that is that the government must be transparent in their actions and decision-making, and be subject to society’s scrutiny and that secrecy of information is an exceptional measure, justifiable only in extreme instances, and under rigid regulations--finds its foundations in a number of elements, both of moral, managerial and political natures. Some of such elements will be commented on below:

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