Brazil: Government must publish verified coronavirus figures

Brazil: Government must publish verified coronavirus figures -

Photo credit: Marcelo Chello / Shutterstock.com

ARTICLE 19 is calling on the Brazilian Government to continue to publish daily, weekly and monthly figures on infections and deaths related to coronavirus. 

The website that had previously showed these figures was taken down on Friday June 5. When the site was reinstated the next day, it only presented figures for the last 24 hours. There was no information about infection and death rates and it was no longer possible to download the dataset. 

Even though the Ministry of Health stated today (June 8) that the website was facing a series of “technical problems” and that more complete information would be disclosed soon, civil society is deeply concerned. Recent events have shown that transparency is not a priority for President Jair Bolsonaro, even during the pandemic, and there have already been questions about the accuracy of official figures. The federal government urgently needs to re-establish the databases and give guarantees about their accuracy.

Director of ARTICLE 19 South America, Denise Dora said:

“During a pandemic, transparency is vital for public trust. Brazilians have the right to know about the full impact of this virus which has killed thousands of us.

“Restricting these figures is part of a broader clampdown on the right to information and public transparency in Brazil.  We call on Congress and the justice system to guarantee the Federal Constitution and the Brazilian Law on Access to Information, whose principles were violated with this change.

“President Jair Bolsonaro has also tried to downplay the extent of coronavirus in Brazil, sharing information that has no scientific evidence, such as the use of hydroxychloroquine as a treatment, and encouraging Brazilians not to follow social distancing measures. 

“We need accurate figures so that we can hold the Government to account for these responses and how they are tackling the pandemic.”

Right to information during the coronavirus pandemic

The lack of information violates international standards and recommendations on the information that States should provide during the pandemic. On May 18, the World Health Assembly called on Member States to: “Provide the population with reliable and comprehensive information on COVID-19 and the measures taken by authorities in response to the pandemic, and take measures to counter misinformation and disinformation and as well as malicious cyber activities.”

Last month, ARTICLE 19 published Ensuring the Public’s Right to Know in the COVID-19 Pandemic, which provides governments with a detailed list of information that they should be proactively sharing with the public during the pandemic.  The recommendations include:

  • The daily sharing of public health data information around coronavirus cases, deaths, testing, facilities, drug trials and contingency planning. 
  • Publishing the details of all contracts, grants, loans, support to companies, and other spending.
  • The publication of  names and biographies of the members of all committees providing scientific, economic or other advice to public bodies; copies of all minutes of meetings, working documents and advice provided to governments. 
  • Sharing governance, human rights and law enforcement information.

Read ARTICLE 19’s report here.