Proposed law in Montenegro criticised as unconstitutional attack on freedom of information

By agency reporter
March 20, 2019

Transparency International, together with its chapter in Montenegro, MANS,has  urged the Government of Montenegro to withdraw its amendments to the Law on Classified Information, which would undermine the country’s freedom of information laws and anti-corruption efforts. The government should organise a public hearing on the matter and harmonise the document with Montenegro's constitution, international standards and the country's obligations under international conventions.

The proposed law would allow the government to declare information classified if its disclosure would affect a government body’s ability to function. It would also remove controls over the manner in which state bodies declare information classified. These amendments are not in accordance with the Montenegrin constitution or international agreements that bind Montenegro, including:

  • Article 19, paragraph 3 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights;
  • Article 10, paragraph 2 of the European Convention on Human Rights;
  • Article 3 of the Council of Europe Convention on Access to Official Documents, which Montenegro has ratified but has not yet come into force.

“If the Government adopts this draft law, it would make it almost impossible for media and civil society to detect corruption and other violations of the law”,  said Delia Ferreira Rubio, Chair of Transparency International. “Under no circumstances should the ability of a government agency to function in a corrupt manner beneath a shroud of secrecy be protected under the law. The lack of public debate or expert consultation in drafting the proposed amendments is also deeply troubling”, she added.

Under pressure from the public and the international community, the Government of Montenegro has begun establishing a working group for drafting amendments to the Law on Free Access to Information. However, the proposed amendments to the Law on Classified Information would substantially limit access to information and obstruct any progress made by the other law.

Twenty-five NGOs have already joined MANS in publicly calling on the government to withdraw the draft law.

“European Commission reports and European Parliament resolutions have repeatedly urged the Government of Montenegro to increase the transparency of its work and increase the public’s access to information. The government's National Action Plan with the Open Government Partnership includes commitments in this area”, said Vanja Calovic, Executive Director of MANS. “If such a draft law were to be adopted it would go completely against these recommendations and represent a huge step backwards for the country.”

* Transparency International https://www.transparency.org/

[Ekk/6]

Although the views expressed in this article do not necessarily represent the views of Ekklesia, the article may reflect Ekklesia's values. If you use Ekklesia's news briefings please consider making a donation to sponsor Ekklesia's work here.