Following the proposal of deputies of the Democratic Party of Socialists, the Parliament of Montenegro has adopted amendments to the Law on Free Access to Information, which has enabled the executive branch hide information about their work without any explanation and without judicial control.
The draft amendments were made by the ruling party MPs at the session of the Committee on Political System, Judiciary and Administration, and the government has accepted them as a part of the proposed legislation, and as such, the Parliament has adopted them without any discussion.
All this happened without warning, without a public hearing and, of course, without consultation with the European Commission, which is submitted important legislation proposals for an opinion. On the contrary, these amendments have been proposed and adopted without any discussion, contrary to the requirements of the European Commission, which has been recommending to make public all information relevant for detection of corruption.
In early 2016, the government established a working group with the aim of including the EU Directive in terms of re-using of information in the existing law.
However, instead of aligning the law with the EU directive, the DPS MPs have made amendments and allowed the government to hide any information, without explanation and judicial control.
The DPS MPs have suggested these amendments after a series of judgments made by the Administrative Court that annulled the unlawful decision of the government on proclaiming secret the data on large privatization and infrastructure projects. That is why we believe that the motive for the amendments to the law is hiding corrupt activities from the public eye.
The DPS MPs’ amendments have also abolished important responsibilities of the Agency for Protection of Personal Data and Free Access to Information. Due to this, the executive will now be able to hide information by prolonging procedures endlessly.
The new legislation abolished the obligation of the Agency to decide according to the merits, which will in practice result in a delay of the proceedings, without being able to adopt a final decision in a case – the authorities will constantly make illegal decisions that the Agency will keep constantly annulling and so on.
At the same time, the DPS MPs have not even tried to explain why they proposed repeal of the Agency powers, which was essential for the efficiency of the procedure.
With these amendments, the DPS MPs have stultified the essence the law – promotion of transparency of the institutions and the efficiency of the procedure of access to information.
For all these reasons, we believe that such disastrous amendments to the law only favor the corrupt officials, and that is the reason why they have been proposed.
Legal Program Coordinator