Brazil: Civil society charges government with violating access to information and transparency during coronavirus crisis 

Brazil: Civil society charges government with violating access to information and transparency during coronavirus crisis  -

Commissioner Joel Hernandez Garcia, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights' Rapporteur for Brazil, Chile and Honduras Picture Credit: Fran Afonso/CIDH

A group of civil society organisations have brought charges against the Brazilian Federal Government at the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR).  Charges about the systematic violation of access to information and transparency during the coronavirus pandemic were received with concern by Commissioner Joel Hernandez Garcia (Rapporteur for Brazil, Chile and Honduras Rapporteur) during a bilateral meeting at IACHR’s 176th session. 

The charges listed several measures taken by the Executive branch that have restricted transparency during the pandemic. These include: 

  • repeated attempts to change the effectiveness of Brazil’s access to information law by trying to pass decrees that violate its principles and weakening state bodies that guarantee access to public information;
  • increasingly spreading disinformation regarding response strategies; 
  • underreporting the number of coronavirus cases; and
  • the repeated non-compliance with social isolation measures and encouraging public authorities to also ignore these measures. 

The organisations pointed out that women, indigenous and black communities are disproportionately affected by these violations. They also warned that as well as failing to publish adequate data, the Government had failed to commit resources to public policies that could mitigate the impacts of the pandemic on the most vulnerable populations. The Rapporteur expressed concern about the prison population, the increase in police violence and the differentiated impacts of coronavirus for those affected by racism and discrimination. 

 This set of violations is even more alarming in the context of the pandemic. It took Brazil only a few months to become one of the countries worst-hit by coronavirus. The number of new cases and deaths continues to grow: the official death toll surpassed 72.000 in mid-July. 

In recent press releases and public statements, the IACHR has expressed concern about Brazil. It is expected to issue a final report of recommendations based on their last visit to the country in November 2018, where violations of the right to information were also denounced. The Rapporteur highlighted the need for these and other recommendations to be implemented by the Brazilian Government to protect human rights. He also recalled Resolution 01/2020, which states that there are two rights that must be secured even in emergency situations like the coronavirus pandemic: freedom of expression and the right to information. 

Despite the worsening situation, Brazil has been continuously ignoring or infringing the Commission’s recommendations of how to improve its response to the pandemic. To address this, the civil society organisations suggested an IACHR visit to Brazil to evaluate public authorities’ measures and policies. A visit to Brazil will be considered once the current suspension of visits is lifted. 

The following organisations  presented evidence: ARTIGO 19, Intellectual Property Working Group from the Brazilian Network for the People’s Integration,  Brazilian Institute of Consumer Protection, Institute for Socioeconomic Studies, Ethos Institute and Transparency Brazil.