The report analyzed data on chloroquine shipments made by the federal government and revealed that 2.8 million tablets were shipped throughout Brazil. The report showed to which states the chloroquine shipments were sent and on which dates. We also showed that military laboratories produced 25 times the amount of chloroquine that was normally produced to fight malaria.
The article was the first to reveal the entire path of chloroquine distribution by the government including details of where each batch was sent. A major opposition party cited the report in a complaint to the Supreme Court about the amount of chloroquine produced by the Army and Navy laboratories in 2020. The report substantiated questions and criticism of the government’s actions during a parliamentary inquiry conducted by the Brazilian Federal Senate to investigate Bolsonaro’s handling of the pandemic. The article was republished by 31 websites and national media outlets and cited or backlinked in at least 22 publications, such as Reporters without Borders, El País, and O Estado de S. Paulo.
We obtained, via the Access to Information Act (equivalent to the FOIA), the Finished Product Tracking Form with information regarding the recipients of chloroquine per batch. the amount of drug produced and the monthly cost of chloroquine production during fiscal year 2020. We used an R script to convert the file and standardized the data. The standardized information was separated by client (military bases, health departments, hospitals, among others), state and municipality of the recipient (in the case of municipal health departments and city halls).
What was the hardest part of this project?
The hardest part was getting access to the data. Previous requests for information were refused by the government, a factor that led to the report being produced only in 2021. Then, working the data and standardizing it without any responses from the government was another challenge. The report should be selected for having circumvented all these obstacles and still managing to reveal unprecedented data of national impact
What can others learn from this project?
Journalists can learn how to obtain public information from the government and how to handle similar databases, which may require standardization processes to be manipulated.