Project description

Brazil’s government has one of the best transparency in the world, but it is not explored enough by media. My project, Marco Zero, want to make the Congress data accessible to all audiences, especially with upcoming ellections. In this article, made with The Intercept Brasil, we wanted to go public with the use of taxpayers’ money. I discovered in the open data available by National Congress that 41 federal deputies from over 14 states and the Federal District spent in 2017 at least R$ 754 thousand of taxpayers’ money to buy news stories on websites, blogs, newspapers, and influential magazines in the states where they were elected. Overall, the analysis comprised more than two thousand invoices – available on the Chamber of Deputies’ transparency website – of communication companies that received money for promoting parliamentary activity. From that amount, 316 receipts issued by 61 companies between January 1st and November 4th presented explicit references to the publication of news stories.Many paid stories were not even identified as such in their publication. The topic has been overlooked by the Chamber’s supervision, which is essentially based on rules limited to the accounting scope.My project is very small, so I worked with Intercept to gain visibility to this matter and to sold this article to mantain my expenses, once it took 3 months to analise all of it.

What makes this project innovative?

Data journalism is a new field in Brazil and there are few people doing it. With this project, I wanted to take it to the next level: I've made an investigative work with data that took me three months to end. I've worked with data from Nation Congress, IRS, Supreme Electoral Court and read more than 5000 receipts available to detect each one of the paid news stories in 2017.

What was the impact of your project? How did you measure it?

More than 10 newspaper replicated the work and more than 4000 people shared the link only on Facebook. Overall, more than 100.000 people got the news on their feed, e-mail or other social media. Some of the federal deputies replied that it wasn't a crime but had their expenses exposed. We had support of some NGO like Contas Abertas, who does transparency work and they were interested to take this to the Supreme Court.

Source and methodology

At first, I took open data from Federal Deputies available on https://dadosabertos.camara.leg.br/swagger/api.html. Then, I checked one by one the companies in the IRS website, to assure they were legit. There are more than 10000 companies dealing with deputies. This work took me one month. After this, I've separated all companies that works with journalism, news, blogs, websites and alike to limit my analysis and downloaded directly from the website all the receipts regarded to those companies and read one by one, to see how news stories are negociated. I've reached all of the deputies in the story and the companies to ask what was their relationship and then wrote the story.

Technologies Used

At first, I was dealing with Python, but the ammount of data that could be manipulated by the receipts were too much to deal only with code. So, I worked mostly with Tableau and Jarbas plataform (a tecnology tool to public receipts of the Congress made my one company named Operação Serenata de Amor), to read all the receipts and select the interesting ones.

Project members

Ruben Berta, from The Intercept Brasil

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