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

Closed Expands Expression

Key Details

  • Mode of Expression
    Public Documents
  • Date of Decision
    August 19, 2009
  • Outcome
    Decision Outcome (Disposition/Ruling), Access to Information Granted
  • Case Number
    28.177-4
  • Region & Country
    Brazil, Latin-America and Caribbean
  • Judicial Body
    Supreme (court of final appeal)
  • Type of Law
    Constitutional Law
  • Themes
    Access to Public Information
  • Tags
    Income and Assets, Parliament

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Case Analysis

Case Summary and Outcome

The Supreme Court of Brazil held that the House of Representatives has a duty to disclose information about the work-related expenses of its members to the media. The Court reasoned that Article 5 of the 1988 Constitution established the right to request and receive information from public bodies and, because those who hold public posts need to be accountable to the public, the media has the “right and duty” to inform the general public under Article 37 of the Constitution. The Court also found that, given the passage of a 2009 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.”

This case analysis was contributed by Right2Info.org.


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 Overview

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. It said that, 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.


Decision Direction

Quick Info

Decision Direction indicates whether the decision expands or contracts expression based on an analysis of the case.

Expands Expression

Global Perspective

Quick Info

Global Perspective demonstrates how the court’s decision was influenced by standards from one or many regions.

National standards, law or jurisprudence

  • Braz., Constitution, art. 5, XXXIII
  • Braz., Constitution, art. 37
  • Braz., Law 8.159/1991

Case Significance

Quick Info

Case significance refers to how influential the case is and how its significance changes over time.

The decision establishes a binding or persuasive precedent within its jurisdiction.

Official Case Documents

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