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Empresa Folha da Manhã S/A v. the President of the House of Representatives

last modified Aug 21, 2012 11:46 AM

Case number:
28.177-4
Country:
Brazil
Date of decision:
19 August 2009
Court / Arbiter:
Supreme Court ( Supreme )


Decision:

The House of Representatives has a duty to disclose to the media information about expenses of its members.


Keywords:
Constitution
Income and assets
Judicial review (including access to courts)
Legislature / Parliament (including committees, individual legislators)
Media / Press
Open government principles (including accountability, anti-corruption, democracy, participation in government, transparency)

Case details:

Facts

After reports emerged in early 2009 denouncing the improper use of a $7,000 monthly allowance given to representatives, the House of Representatives established a new rule that obliged its members to provide information about work-related expenses on the internet The daily newspaper Folha de Sao Paulo had repeatedly requested access to this information before the new rule but the House had denied access on the ground that disclosing such information would violate fiscal confidentiality. In August 2009, after the new rule had been established, the newspaper filed a writ of mandamus against the President of the House of Representatives and requested access to expenses related documents from September to December 2008. Because the writ was filed against a high-ranking federal authority, the Supreme Court had original jurisdiction over the case.

Decision

The court held that the 1988 Constitution established the right to request and to receive information from public bodies under Article 5 of the Constitution. Because those who hold public posts need to be accountable to the public, the media has the “right-duty” to inform the general public under Article 37 of the Constitution.  The court also found that, given the passage in April 2009 of a rule requiring representatives to provide information online about work-related expenses, “[i]t is inconceivable to deny access to documents that provide proof of public expenses which, in reality, should be voluntarily published through the Internet.” The court granted a provisional decision determining that the documents should be disclosed.

Note

After 30 days, the information was not released and the Supreme Court was notified that its decision had not been observed. The House of Representatives maintained that it needed time to organize all relevant documents. On September 27, the court issued another decision questioning the position of the House of Representatives and ordering it to provide the information immediately.

Resources:

Judgment of the Court.