Disclosing massive ammounts of data to improve journalism in Brazil

Country/area: Brazil

Organisation: Fiquem Sabendo, CNN Brasil, Abraji, FGV-EAESP

Organisation size: Small

Cover letter:

I am a proven leader in the intersection between journalism and transparency in Brazil and believe that the more citizens know about the government’s decisions that affect them, the stronger our democracy will be. My articles have concretely helped governments to save money (R$ 15 million, after I revealed that a government contract had winners before the bid was set), remove public servants who performed illegal acts (revealing that a public servant hired her own company for public service), influenced the shape of transparency policies (revealing how São Paulo’s City Hall used journalists data to hide public documents and then it was used by the federal government as example to allow anonymous requests) and revealed to Facebook the most influential disinformation network in Brazil during the 2018 elections, with 12 million daily interactions (Facebook removed the pages after it was published).

Beyond doing such work for the most influential news outlets in Brazil, I’ve been leading initiatives to improve public transparency and put a spotlight on the use of public money. I’m a co-founder of Fiquem Sabendo, an agency with a R$ 250,000 annual budget and 10 professionals that disclose public data to support journalists, researchers and lawyers, with 5,000+ qualified subscribers (senior professionals and public sector leaders). I send daily information requests to public agencies with the support of my team, analyze the data received and then simplify it in a newsletter. Our impact is huge on both mainstream and regional media outlets in Brazil, with more than 1,000 articles published since 2019 using it as a source.

My work also makes governments more transparent. A good example was when I published, for the first time, all payments to thousands of pensioners in Brazil over the past 100 years. They are relatives of federal civil servants who are entitled to a lifetime payment because of the family relationship, with payments up to R$ 30,000 monthly. From this revelation, that came into public after our lawyer put a lawsuit, I and another director mobilized journalists from all over Brazil to research the data and they found, for example, life pensions paid to military agents accused of having committed crimes in the dictatorship. They also found a person who received pension for 107 years. 

My leadership has been recognized in different situations in 2020. I became the youngest Abraji director, a R$ 2 million annual budget entity that led the fight for the approval of Access to Information Law in Brazil. My responsibility in the organization goes from educating the next generation of investigative journalists by conducting courses to 10,000+ journalists/year to monitoring transparency by editing reports on government’s open data that shape public policy change. I also became the first Brazilian member of the OCCRP, an international investigative reporting platform for a worldwide network of independent media centers and journalists and my job is to find out stories concerning international crime and corruption and connect the best Brazilian journalists with our team.

Description of portfolio:

In 2020 I have worked on some of the most impactful projects of my career so far. Here are some projects: – Me and my team at Fiquem Sabendo revealed, for the first time in 100 years, who are the thousands of pensionists in Brazil and how much public funds they receive from the federal government, after 3 years we’ve put a lawsuit against the federal government and then spent months organizing 27GB of data to disclose it to the public. Pensionists are relatives of civil or military public servants that receive a lifetime payment that can go up to R$ 30,000 monthly (the same amount paid to the president of Brazil). In 25 years, the federal government spent almost R$ 500 billion (US$ 100 billion) with them. The impact was huge and dozens of stories have been published by some of the most important news outlets in Brazil (Estadão, Piauí, Gazeta do Povo, SBT, Band, among many others), revealing military servants who receive money even after being accused of torturing people, people who received a pension for more than 100 years, etc. More than 100 articles were published in print, online and TV media using our database. – Me and my team at CNN Brasil (and after that, in a separate article, at Fiquem Sabendo) revealed how the government bought overpriced chloroquine to fight Covid-19 even after many scientific studies show that there is no evidence of its benefits for patients. To do so we had to scrape data from the Federal Gazette in the past 10 years and see how much the Our stories were very impactful and led to investigations against the chief of the Army, the minister of defense and the minister of health. There is also a request for a comission of inquiry in the congress after our story was published. – Fiquem Sabendo, a project that I co-founded, disclosed more than 160 different databases and documents in 2020 and we were quoted as the main source of more than 500 articles in 2020, from small newsrooms in north and northeast of the country to Reuters (https://www.reuters.com/?edition-redirect=br), a huge impact for a very small project with people working part-time on it. – I have leaded a project, at Fiquem Sabendo, with the support of ICFJ, to teach how to use access to information law in Brazil and comparing it to the US FOIA. We’ve published interviews and tutorials for 4 months in our website – https://ijnet.org/en/node/9253 – As Abraji director, the Brazilian Association of Investigative Journalism, I have denounced monthly the lack of data about Covid-19, produced reports both in Sao Paulo and Brasilia (Brazil’s capital) and revealed that the Ministry of Health stopped answering public FOIA requests using the same legal argument (but ilegally). After I published it in Abraji’s website, they started to answer the requests again – https://abraji.org.br/noticias/ministerio-da-saude-volta-a-atender-pedidos-de-informacao-apos-seis-meses-de-recusas I was also responsible for writing Abraji’s annual report on transparency, focusing on São Paulo, and revealed that governor Joao Doria is ignoring half of the health FOIA requests during the pandemic and some requests take 1 year to be answered – https://www.abraji.org.br/noticias/secretaria-da-saude-de-sp-atrasa-mais-da-metade-dos-pedidos-feitos-pela-lai-durante-a-pandemia / https://www.abraji.org.br/noticias/sao-paulo-abre-dados-sobre-pedidos-e-respostas-via-lai / https://www.abraji.org.br/publicacoes/relatorio-de-descumprimento-da-lai-no-estado-de-sao-paulo As a researcher, I have revealed, in a scientific article, with the support of another researcher (Marcio Cunha) that the Brazilian government is hiding 100,000 documents in 2020, more than ever, with the legal excuses of “protecting the state”. It had a good repercussion in media – http://bibliotecadigital.fgv.br/ojs/index.php/cadernosebape/article/view/82160 / https://politica.estadao.com.br/blogs/gestao-politica-e-sociedade/sem-controles-efetivos-orgaos-federais-mantem-mais-de-100-mil-informacoes-sob-segredo/ – I also offered more than 20 workshops for journalists about access to information, data and investigative journalism in 2020. The list can be seen here –

Project links: