2022 Shortlist

Using data to monitor FOIA in brazil

Country/area: Brazil

Organisation: Fiquem Sabendo, OCCRP, freelance

Organisation size: Small

Cover letter:

Stories I’ve written in the past 10 years helped to save millions in public funds and investigate illegal practices from individuals, companies and governments. I used to do investigative journalism by talking to lots of people and reading hundreds of documents. I still do it, but now I have been learning how to code to collaborate with cross-border and data-driven projects. In 2021 I have been sharing my time between reporting using data and developing projects that help other journalists and researchers get the data they need. I created scrapers that improve how all Brazilian journalists can find public data. One of the scrapers finds all FOIA (Freedom of Information) requests answered by the federal government in Brazil since the law was enacted, in 2012, based on a keyword and time range that interests the user, and then put them all into a CSV file. There is another scraper that helps people analyze what kind of information request is being denied by the government due to privacy or secrecy laws. It scrapes and parses a huge dataset looking for those cases, finds PDFs and transforms the information into a simple CSV file. Both scrapers can be found here. In the first semester, as a Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism fellow, I have created a guide on how to get the maximum potential from FOIA requests. This project evolved and now it is being used to teach thousands of journalists in Brazil through a partnership between the organization I co-founded, Fiquem Sabendo, and of the most relevant investigative journalistic associations in Latin America, Abraji. At Fiquem Sabendo, me and my team have opened multiple datasets that were being held from Brazilian citizens. We ended the secrecy of companies and people who deforest the Amazon and get fines for that. We’ve revealed that more money is spent on military pensions – including those accused of crimes during the dictatorship – than on social benefits. I also have joined OCCRP as their first Brazil editor and was responsible for coordinating cross-border investigations involving Brazil and other countries. One of the projects revealed multiple investigations against the giant Canadian group Brookfield for environmental crimes and threats against Brazilian citizens. In this other project, Open Lux, we have revealed how the mother of a Brazilian politician that is being investigated for corruption created an offshore in Luxembourg without l In the past, I was part of a team that broke a story revealing that a bid result was already set before the due date. It made a city save millions in public funds. Using public data, I found out that high-level officials received housing benefits ilegally from public universities for years. A court said they should give the money back. Using social media data, I was able to investigate and highlight the most impactful disinformation network in Brazil during the 2018 presidential elections. They were reaching more people than famous artists like Anitta or Madonna. The story made Facebook shut their pages down a week later. I have also coordinated a series of articles that led government authorities to investigate and then shut down an illegal air charter service, seize illegal airplanes and sanction people and companies who were operating those services. Most of my stories are based in multiple public records. That’s why I also coordinate or contribute to multiple projects that improve government transparency. I co-founded an NGO that finds, organizes and releases relevant public data for free. It is being used as a source of data by all the major news outlets in Brazil, both at local, national and international

Description of portfolio:

I have worked as a journalist for 10 years and my work has had a real impact on society.

Stories I’ve written in the past 10 years helped to save millions in public funds and investigate illegal practices from individuals, companies and governments.

I was responsible for a story that revealing that a bid result was already set before the due date. It made a city save millions in public funds.

Using public data, I found out that high-level officials received housing benefits ilegally from public universities for years. A court said they should give the money back.

Using social media data, I was able to investigate and highlight the most impactful disinformation network in Brazil during the 2018 presidential elections. They were reaching more people than famous artists like Anitta or Madonna. The story made Facebook shut their pages down a week later.

I have also coordinated a series of articles that led government authorities to investigate and then shut down an illegal air charter service, seize illegal airplanes and sanction people and companies who were operating those services.

Most of my stories are based in multiple public records.

That’s why I also coordinate or contribute to multiple projects that improve government transparency. I co-founded an NGO that finds, organizes and releases relevant public data for free. It is being used as a source of data by all the major news outlets in Brazil, both at local, national and international levels.

Project links:

fiquemsabendo.substack.com/p/nos-derrubamos-o-sigilo-de-quem-desmatou

fiquemsabendo.substack.com/p/nova-denuncia-da-fiquem-sabendo-obriga

fiquemsabendo.com.br/trabalho/autuados-por-trabalho-escravo-entre-2010-e-2020/

www.occrp.org/en/openlux/luxembourg-companies-add-evidence-for-brazilian-investigations-into-corruption-crime

www.occrp.org/en/37-ccblog/ccblog/15085-canadian-giant-brookfield-s-brazilian-projects-investigated-for-environmental-crimes

www.occrp.org/en/loosetobacco/china-tobacco-goes-global/china-tobacco-very-discreetly-becomes-leaf-buying-powerhouse-in-brazil

github.com/luizftoledo/FOIA-scrapers-in-Brazil

reutersinstitute.politics.ox.ac.uk/how-unlock-potential-freedom-information-requests-your-newsroom