Madrid, 31 October 2019 – The Montenegrin government has proposed amendments to its Law on Free Access to Information that directly contradict international standards and undermine the fundamental right of freedom of expression. Access Info today voiced its serious concern and urged the Government to reconsider.
Together with MANS, an anti-corruption NGO in Montenegro, Access Info has submitted a legal analysis of the proposed amendments to Montenegro’s Ministry of Public Administration on Law on Free Access to Information.
The proposed changes would take Montenegro further away from international standards on transparency. Specifically, they would result in a law that is in direct breach of Montenegro’s international commitments, including its ratification of the Council of Europe Convention on Access to Official Documents, and its obligation to protect freedom of expression and information under the European Convention on Human Rights and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.
Even where the changes are not regressive, they fail to significantly improve the law to bring it into line with international standards. These are not the advances on transparency that Montenegro has pledged to make as a member of the Open Government Partnership.
The proposed changes suggested by the Montenegrin government would:
- add broad blanket exclusions on the right of freedom of information;
- allow authorities the ability to reject what they define as “unreasonable” requests;
- narrow the right to cover only information that is of apparent “public importance”;
- include exceptions that are not permitted under international law;
- add exceptions where the harm test will not be applied.
“The amendments proposed by the Montenegrin government to its Law on Free Access to Information undoubtedly violate the fundamental right of freedom of information of the people of Montenegro. These proposals would infringe its commitments to international law, while directly contravening the principles of transparency, good governance, and integrity”, said Helen Darbishire, Executive Director of Access Info.
Access Info strongly urges the Montenegrin government to retract the proposed changes. Failure to do so would negatively impact the Law on Free Access to Information, undermine the entirety of Montenegro’s access to information regime and run directly counter to international standards.