We are urging the Ministry of Public Administration to postpone public debate on the Law on Free Access to Information after the coronavirus pandemic and to publish opinions of the European Union experts on that regulation.
We believe that it is inappropriate moment for the Ministry to organize a public debate on the constitutional right of citizens to access to information, when they are locked in their homes and when there are no sessions of the Parliament, and it is not certain when the sittings of the ordinary sessions will resume due to extraordinary measures.
A few days ago, the Ministry announced that it was putting the proposed draft amendments to the public re-hearing and requested written comments by 4 April.
Such case is an unprecedented example of misuse of a public debate institute, especially given that the Law in no way falls under the category of laws that need to be urgently amended, particularly in the period of unprecedented crisis and on the verge of the state of emergency.
Moreover, the law has been sharply criticized by numerous journalists, representatives of the non-governmental sector, as well as international experts. Despite this, the Ministry is now, in the midst of a pandemic, trying to simulate a public debate on the law.
There is virtually no public space for discussion that this law deserves, and it is inappropriate to create it by force in a climate of collective fear of an impending epidemic.
Bearing in mind that the Law on Free Access to Information is a key tool for investigative journalists and NGOs that monitor the work of state bodies, it is particularly worrying that this law is amended in this way, several months before the parliamentary elections.
It is precisely the situation with the coronavirus pandemic that shows how important it is for public informing to be based on official and verified data, leaving minimal space for fake news and unverified information.
Because of all this, we urge the Ministry to publish all opinions of international experts given on the draft amendments to this law, because it is their obligation stipulated precisely by this law.
Lastly, we urge the Ministry to postpone the public debate on the law defining the right of citizens guaranteed by the Constitution and numerous international conventions, as long as the Government’s measures restricting the movement of citizens are in force.
The undersigned NGOs and journalists:
NGO Network for Affirmation of the NGO Sector – MANS
NGO Human Action Rights HRA
NGO Institute Alternative
NGO Centre for Monitoring and Research – CEMI
NVO Center for Civil Liberties – CEGAS
NVO Center for Democratic Transition – CDT
Center for investigative journalism CIN-CG
NGO Centre for Democracy and Human Rights – CEDEM
NGO 35 mm
Environmental movement OZON
NGO Center for protection of birds and research – CZIP
NGO Green Home
NGO Media centre
NGU Women’s Rights Center – CŽP
NGO Young Roma
NGO European Association for Law and Finance (EALF)
NGO Women’s Safe House – SŽK
LGBT Forum Progress
Roma Youth Organisation “Walk With Us – Phiren amenca”
Montenegrin Committee of Lawyers for the Protection of Human Rights (CKZP)
Financial and Business Literacy Institute
Association of Youth with Disabilities of Montenegro – UMHCG
Paraplegics Association of Montenegro
NGO Centre for Entrepreneurship
Paraplegics Association of Bijelo Polje and Mojkovac
Union of Free Trade Unions of Montenegro
NGO Association for Development of Civil Society of Bijelo Polje
Dr Martin Schneider – Jacoby Association MSJA
NGO Workers from Bankrupt Companies in Montenegro
Foundation “HELP – Action for North of Montenegro”
Union of Doctors of Medicine of Montenegro
NGO HOPE, Herceg Novi
NGO Multimedial Montenegro – Mmne
NGO Hand to Hand
Marijana Bojanić, director, TV Vijesti
Nikola Marković, editor, DAN
Tatjana Ašanin, editor, TV Vijesti
Svetlana Đokić, journalist, TV Vijesti
Darko Ivanović, journalist
Jelena Jovanović, journalist, ND Vijesti
Mihailo Jovović, programme editor, ND Vijesti
Goran Kapor, journalist, ND Vijesti
Damira Kalač, journalist, ND Vijesti
Srdan Kosović, editor in chief, ND Vijesti
Vuk Lajović, journalist, ND Vijesti
Danijela Lasica, journalist, TV Vijesti
Draško Milačić, journalist, DAN
Milorad Milošević, journalist, ND Vijesti
Milka Tadić Mijović, director, CIN-CG
Ana Ostojić, journalist, DAN
Vladimir Otašević, journalist, DAN
Milica Krgović, journalist, DAN
Tina Popović, editor, ND Vijesti
Miloš Rudović, journalist, ND Vijesti
Danilo Ajković, journalist, TV Vijesti
Majda Šabotić, journalist, TV Vijesti
Marko Vešović, journalist, DAN
Tijana Pravilović, journalist, TV Vijesti
Milena Perović Korać, journalist, Monitor
Siniša Luković, journalist, ND Vijesti
Marija Mirjačić, journalist, ND Vijesti
Jovan Nikitović, journalist, Pobjeda
Translated by MANS