Below is a statement of 36 Montenegrin NGOs that urged the Ministry of Defence to withdraw from the procedure controversial provisions of the Law on Classified Information that provide for unconstitutional hiding of information from the public.
The statement was signed by:
Center for Civic Education – CGO
Centre for Development of Non-Governmental Organizations – CRNVO
Center for Democracy and Human Rights – CEDEM
Centre for Monitoring and Research – CEMI
Human Rights Action – HRA
Women’s Safe House SŽK
NGO Green Home
Politikon Network – PIN
NGO Media Centre
Center for Civil Liberties – CEGAS
Association of professional journalists of Montenegro
NGO Eco Team
Women’s Rights Center
NGO New Horizon
ANIMA – Centre for Women’s and Peace Education
NGO Workers from Bankrupt Companies in Montenegro
NGO Ecological Association Breznica
Montenegro’s Committee of Lawyers for the Protection of Human Rights
NGO Hand to Hand
MSJA – Dr. Martin Schneider-Jacoby
Association of Youth with Disabilities – UMHCG
Center for Investigative Journalism of Montenegro – CIN CG
Union of Free Trade Unions of Montenegro
Hand of Friendship Foundation
NGO Institute for Business and Financial Literacy
Center for Protection and Research of Birds – CZIP
Foundation “HELP – Action for North of Montenegro”
Environmental Movement OZON
NGO Association for implementation of rights – UZIP
NGO Network for Affirmation of NGO Sector– MANS
We invite the Ministry of Defence to delete provisions from the proposed amendments to the Law on Classified Information, which provide for unconstitutional hiding of information of public importance.
The government withdrew identical amendments to the law from the parliamentary procedure after the public criticism of international and Montenegrin NGOs, however, the Ministry of Defence put identical proposal to public debate.
Proposed amendments allow all state bodies to declare information secret, if their disclosure would influence “performing of activities of a state body”. Such broad definition of the reasons why documents can be hidden from the eyes of the public is not in accordance with the Constitution or international standards.
Article 51 of the Constitution of Montenegro guarantees to all citizens the right to access information and stipulates that it can be restricted only if it is in the interest of the protection of life; public health; morality and privacy; carrying of criminal proceedings; security and defence of Montenegro; foreign, monetary and economic policy.
International standards and precise exemptions from the implementation of the right to access information are clearly laid down in Article 19, paragraph 3 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, as well as Article 10, paragraph 2 of the European Convention on Human Rights.
These amendments to the Law were proposed due to increased practice of state authorities hiding key information about their work and spending of state money that was previously publicly available.
In its latest report, the European Commission strongly criticized such practice by the institutions and concluded that the priority was to break such trend and improve both the practice and legislation.
Instead, the proposed amendments to the Law introduce even greater space for hiding information and preventing NGOs and journalists from controlling the work of state authorities, discovering corruption, violation of human rights, and monitoring the implementation of government policies and obligations from the European integration process.
Therefore, we urge the Ministry to respect the Constitution and laws of this country, as well as international conventions, and delete provisions from the proposed amendments to the Law on Classified Information that limit the right to access information, as well as the work of non-governmental organizations and journalists.