Five leaders of parliamentary parties have submitted Proposal for the constitutional review of the Law on Free Access to Information, which limits the right of access to public records to a greater extent than provided by the Constitution of Montenegro. At the invitation of MANS, the Proposal have been submitted by Aleksa Becic, Ranko Krivokapic, Miodrag Lekic, Dritan Abazovic and Srdjan Milic.
Thus, five MPs have automatically initiated the procedure for the constitutional review, which has thereby sped up the deciding of the Constitutional Court in this case. Quick decision of the Constitutional Court is essential to prevent Montenegrin institutions to, contrary to the Constitution, hide from public view all kind of information, including that which may indicate corruption and other violations of law by public officials. On the other hand, in cases where the initiative to the Constitutional Court is started by citizens and NGOs, the procedure takes longer and has more steps.
Specifically, Article 51 of the Constitution guarantees that everyone has the right to access information held by public bodies and organizations exercising public authority and that this right can be restricted only if it is with the purpose of protecting a life, public health, morality and privacy, criminal proceedings, security and defense of Montenegro, and foreign, monetary and economic policy. Contrary to these provisions of the Constitution, amendments to the Law on Free Access to Information have introduced the possibility of limiting access to data, which depends on the free will of the authorities and whether they will declare a document confidential.
The amendments provide that the Constitutional right to access to information can be arbitrarily restricted by any state authority and in any field, not just those that are prescribed by the Constitution. Thus, the amended law unquestionably limits the access to information more than the Constitution, which is in violation of the highest legal act, as well as a number of international conventions governing this area which Montenegro is obliged to uphold.
These amendments, adopted at the proposal of DPS MPs, imply that access to any information which the public authority chooses to designate as confidential will not be granted on the basis of the Law on Free Access to Information. At the same time, this prevents the judicial review in any case when the authority arbitrarily and without any explanation relied on data confidentiality. In this way, there is s a huge possibility of limiting access to information in order to conceal the abuse, corruption and other crimes. This is particularly problematic when one considers that the authorities already have a tradition of violating the law in such manner, which hundreds of court judgments can confirm.
For all these reasons, we ask the Constitutional Court to respond urgently, to consider the submitted Proposal for Constitutional review of the amendments to the Law on Free Access to Information and to repeal such legislation, as it only suits corrupt officials who want to hide their illegal work.