With this tool, we have compiled the full text of all requests for impeachment against Jair Bolsonaro, as well as a summary of each proposal and exclusive interviews with its authors. The initiative is part of Agência Pública’s commitment to the pursuit of transparency and accountability of all branches of government and public authorities. The tool also features the requests sorted by topic. Bolsonaro’s poor handling of the health crisis during the pandemic and the government’s delay in buying the covid-19 vaccines are among the most recurrent topics.
Agência Pública has been monitoring all impeachment requests filed with the Chamber of Deputies and making them publicly accessible on the tool. Although the project was created in the second semester of 2020, most of its content is from 2021, when there were 82 new requests. By gathering these documents in a single platform, we promote transparency, making it easy for any citizen to have direct access to the information. We also translate legal terms into less formal language in the abstracts of each request and publish interviews with the plaintiffs.The impeachment tool is a pioneering initiative, both in the field of journalism and public transparency. It is an important historical record, serving as a data source for journalists and researchers. Through the BuzzSumo platform, we have so far registered more than 140 citations or backlinks to the tool in national and international websites, such as Reporters sans frontières, and major media outlets such as the New York Times, Bloomberg and Foreign Policy. The tool was also cited in “How to remove a president: Theory, history, and practice of impeachment in Brazil”, a book by researcher and professor at the University of São Paulo Rafael Mafei. With this project, we were able to determine that Bolsonaro is the president who has accumulated the most impeachment requests in Brazil’s history – already more than 140 requests. We were also able to analyze the range of accusations on which the petitions are based. More than 1550 people and more than 500 organizations have signed the petitions. Agência Pública’s impeachment tool is also an instrument of citizenship. Using the tool, our readers have already sent 16.697 emails demanding a follow-up to the President of the Chamber of Deputies, who has so far ignored the documents.
The Access to Information Law (LAI), Brazil’s equivalent to the Freedom of Information Act, is one of the main tools used for this project. It is this instrument that allows our team to access the full impeachment requests filed with the Chamber of Deputies. To simplify the access to the content, the impeachment tool was built in microsite format, where the impeachment requests are sorted by number and by topics. There is also an interactive menu that can direct the reader to different sections with explanations about the impeachment process in Brazil, the role of the institutions involved, impeachable offenses, history of impeachment requests and processes in other governments, and information on how our team keeps count of the impeachment requests. In addition, through the platform it is possible to send an email to the Chamber of Deputies (Brazil’s House of Representatives), demanding follow-up on the impeachment proposals.
What was the hardest part of this project?
Keeping the tool always up to date is certainly the biggest challenge of this project. It is an effort we’ve been undertaking for almost two years now, with a team dedicated to searching, reading, and summarizing all impeachment petitions that reach the House of Representatives. Weekly updates are made, both via LAI and by monitoring the media for new announcements of requests. Our team often has to resort to investigative tools to locate request authors, as contact information is not provided by the House of Representatives and there are many requests that were filled by ordinary citizens. This is, therefore, a pioneering project that involves many fronts, such as data, transparency, journalistic investigation, and historical record.
What can others learn from this project?
As we’ve mentioned earlier, this tool is an important data source that has been used by journalists, both from Agência Pública and other media organizations. It is a platform designed to supply the general public with data and information in a way that is easier to access. We believe that, as a journalistic initiative, this project provides a good example of how to work with data and use the Access to Information Act (LAI), as well as the importance of journalism for historic record and collective memory. Even if Bolsonaro manages to serve full term, the impeachment tool will remain a source of data for future reference.