In recent years a wave of Freedom of Information (FOI) laws has swept across
the world, with more than two thirds of the approximately one hundred FOI laws
having been adopted in the last decade. In Latin America, only Venezuela and Cos-
ta Rica do not have some type of FOI legislation: Brazil was one of the last to join
this move towards greater transparency, approving its Freedom of Information Law
12.527 in 20111. This law delineates and makes effective the right guaranteed by Ar-
ticle 5, XXXIII, and section II of § 3rd of Article 37, of the federal Constitution, which
grants any citizen the right to obtain government information.
The FOI law complies with the decisions of the Inter-American Court of Human
Rights, which affirm the right of access to public information (Chile v Claude Reyes et
al2 and Gomes-Lund v Brasil)3. It also represents compliance with other treaties and
conventions, such as Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights of the
United Nations, that the right to public information is a fundamental human right4.
The FOI law is of central importance as a tool for exercising democracy in Bra-
zil. It not only gives access to information previously unavailable but also requires
governments to make available a number of categories of online information and
access to open data. In fact, Law 12.527/11 is one of only a few in the world to incor-
porate several open data principles5.
1 Law 12.527 became effective only the following year in 2012. The law is known in Portuguese as “Lei de
Acesso à Informação” or LAI.
2 Series C, Number 151.
3 Series C, Number 27.
4 Article 19 states: “Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; this right includes freedom
to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive, and impart information and ideas through any media
and regardless of frontiers.”
5 Art. 8º, § 3º, sections II and III of Law 12.527/11 recommend that public bodies use open formats processable
by computer to provide information as part of their active transparency initiatives.