Newsletter Don’t LAI to ME

Category: Open data

Country/area: Brazil

Organisation: Fiquem Sabendo

Organisation size: Small

Publication date: 14/01/2019

Credit: Luiz Fernando Toledo, Maria Vitória Ramos, Léo Arcoverde, Fabiana Cambricoli and Bruno Morassutti

Project description:

The first brazilian newsletter to open government data using multiple Freedom of Information Law (the brazilian FOIA) requests. In just one year our impact on the national and regional media was huge: exclusive data we published was mentioned more than 400 times in newspaper from over 21 brazilian states on TV, local and national newspapers, magazines and journalistic websites. Our mail goal is to spread data journalism not only for those who already use it, but mostly for small and medium newsrooms and researchers. One of our most recent publications revealed, for the first time in 50 years, the list

Impact reached:

Exclusive data we published was mentioned more than 400 times in news outlets from over 21 brazilian states on TV, local and national newspapers, magazines and journalistic websites. (BBC Brasil, El Pais, Folha de S. Paulo, O Estado de S. Paulo, O Globo, Correio Braziliense, Zero Hora, HBO Brasil and many others). We’ve gathered a community of over 4,000 subscribers in one year – journalists, lawyers, researchers and public officers from every brazilian state –  and pressed the government to publish hundreds of new databases online. We are proud to say that small local newspapers and websites from all regions of the country are using our data to write stories about their own community. The most impactful database was published after we denounced on justice that the federal government never published salaries received by pensionists (in Brazil there are a lot of laws that give you to right to receive a salary for your whole life just because your parents were public officers or military). More than 300,000 salaries were published online after the Tribunal de Contas da União (a federal legislative court) accepted our claim. The data revealed that even sons of military accused of torturing people during the brazilian Military Regime still receive pensions. The federal government paid over R$ 590 billion on these pensions in the last 6 years (over U$S 120 billions).

We also made public more than 500 documents that were kept in secret by the federal government, even after the official seal was out of date. Those documents revealed, for example, how the military spied on activists during the 2013 protests in Brazil against Dilma Roussef and against the World Cup in 2014.

Our work was mentioned as source by GJIN and CGU (Brazil’s federal agency to prevent corruption).

Techniques/technologies used:

We focus on using and automatizing Freedom of Information Law websites, to get more information faster and from all the brazilian states, so we have new data that can be used be journalists and researchers from all over the country. We are now using a system to send many requests at the same time, so we can ask just one question for all  the ministries from the federal government, for example. 

But our focus is to ask many questions, find out the data that is still hidden and pursue it using the law and administrative appeals. 

What was the hardest part of this project?

The hardest part is that we are in this project, for the most part of our time, as a volunteer group of 4 journalists and one lawyer. We all have our own jobs and schedules, but we decided to share what we’ve got with other coleagues and spread technicques about how to get information from the government. Our newsletters are published on mondays, so it took a lot of our holidays and weekends to prepare the material and make it easy to access and understand. 

We also need to “translate” the data we get for our audience, since many journalists are not used to read databases or send FOIA requests. 

What can others learn from this project?

– How to send massive FOIA requests and make it useful for national and regional use; 

– How to make impact with a project on many different newsrooms

– How to automatize requests

– How to organize a flow of sending, receiving and putting the request on different categories

– How to gather data from different databased and create one single product

Project links: