Maria Vitória Launberg Ramos

Country/area: Brazil

Organisation: Fiquem Sabendo

Organisation size: Small

Cover letter:

I am a 24-year-old journalist-entrepreneur leading Fiquem Sabendo, a media start-up keeping the powerful accountable through FOIA requests. In 2020, as the co-founder and CEO of a data-journalism initiative in Brazil, I have coordinated multiple data-driven projects, edited over 50 exclusive new stories in partnership with Yahoo Brasil, monitored public datasets on socio-environmental issues in a collaborative effort with Transparência Brasil and Abraji. 

I am currently on the 2021 cohort of the Product Immersion for Small Newsrooms program at The Newmark Graduate School of Journalism. In 2020 I was part of the United States Department of State’s International Visitor Leadership Program for “Transparency and Accountability in Government”. In 2019, I participated as the leader of Fiquem Sabendo at New Ventures Lab II, an accelerator run by Chicas Poderosas, a global community that promotes female leadership in independent news outlets.

My biggest inspiration is Hans Rosling and GapMinder! Michael Morisy and Muckrock are benchmarks and Repórter Brasil’s Slave Labor List is a local example of FOIA’s power in Brazil. When talking about mentors there is no one like Léo Arcoverde. I was a 21-year-old student when we decided to take his personal project to the next level. He gave me all the passwords and a free pass: go and try everything, I will be here if you fail. For me, a mentor is someone that shares their confidence in you before you have realized you are capable. On that same page, Mariana Santos has shown me the way to lead as a woman in media. Finally, Adriana Garcia helped me clear the path for real innovation.

Graduated in Journalism from the Faculdade Cásper Líbero, I was a reporter for Ponte Jornalismo, exposing violations of Human Rights by the police and armed forces in Brazil. I am the author of “Indigentes: the State that buries without warning”, an investigative book that exposes the heartbreaking system that keeps families looking for supposedly missing people for years when they have been buried by the Brazilian government. The book was chosen by the Brazilian Association of Investigative Journalism (Abraji) as one of the best pieces of 2019 and selected for the 4th Conectas Human Rights Fair.

I believe I am a good candidate for this award due to my commitment to push data journalism forward in Latin America, overcoming data censorship, fostering collaboration between journalists, newsrooms, and citizens, and developing a business model for freeing up data in Brazil.

Description of portfolio:

Fiquem Sabendo | cofounder and director

Fiquem Sabendo’s mission is to spread access to information and transparency tools in order to promote active oversight of public power, strengthening participatory democracy. We make requests, reports, and lawsuits for access to information with a multidisciplinary team to obtain information of public interest.  We process data and analyze documents and disclose relevant information to society.

We distribute government data to citizens, journalists, researchers, news outlets, activists, and NGOs committed to government transparency, democracy, and Human Rights. Fiquem Sabendo is a data-journalism centered organization and publishes exclusive news stories licensed under Creative Commons CC BY 4.0. 

In 2020 I lead a team of 10 people and together we:

– 22 editions of the “Don’t LAI to me” newsletter with 166 databases and/or unpublished public documents released;

– 49 reports published with new data on Yahoo Br with 300 thousand readers;

– 48 texts, articles, and guides published on the website, which received 48,985 readers in 2020;

– 2,724 requests filed with the federal government;

– Finalists of Livre.jor’s “Jornalismo-Mosca 2020 Award”, with two reports in the main category and three in the university category. We won first place in the main category with the “pensioners case” and in the university category with a report on eviction actions in São Paulo during the pandemic;

– Finalists in the Open Data category of the Cláudio Weber Abramo Award for Data Journalism, also with the case of federal government pension payments;

– 21 workshops/lectures held, for hundreds of people in several Brazilian states, in addition to participation in international events.

Product Manager | 20 years of darkness: shedding light on government pensions in Brazil 

For over a century Brazilian taxpayers have given a blank check for the government to use on pensions for public servants with no oversight. For three years Fiquem Sabendo battled in the Supreme Audit Institution of Brazil,  pressuring for access to historical records. In 2020 we won, freeing 26 years’ worth of data about payments. The whole process of cleaning, analyzing, uploading the data online, identified issues, and correcting the official database by collaborating with the Ministry of Economy was coordinated by myself. I then organized a pool of journalists to produce stories and gave free access to our tool for everyone. 

-o take these historical findings to the broader public, I coordinated a collaborative task force with four journalists to produce stories from the dataset. Lucio Vaz (Gazeta do Povo), Eduardo Barretto (Época), Bruno Fonseca (Agência Pública), and Taís Seibt (Fiquem Sabendo/Yahoo) worked for over a month with our team to find scoops. Agência Pública, for example, found that hundreds of officers accused of torture during the dictatorship have been receiving lifetime pensions from the government. Over a year since the data was released by our small independent team, it is still being used by many major news outlets (Google “Fiquem Sabendo” “pensionistas”). Even president Bolsonaro tried to weigh in the situation by falsely claiming on social media he was the one to order the release of the dataset. The House of Representatives leader condemned the pensions.

Editor and Project Manager | Reporting for Yahoo Brasil 

Project Leader | Socioenvironmental Data Monitor

Project links: