At the initiative of NGO MANS, Institute Alternative signed a press release of the following content:
GOVERNMENT TO WITHDRAW PROPOSED
AMENDMENTS TO THE LAW ON CLASSIFIED INFORMATION
We urge the Government of Montenegro to withdraw the Draft Law on Amendments to the Law on Classified Information from the procedure, to organise a public hearing and harmonise this document with international standards.
This Draft Law, adopted last week by the Government without any public or expert debate, envisages the introduction of a new basis for declaring data classified, which is not in accordance with the Constitution or international agreements that bind Montenegro, including Article 19, paragraph 3 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and Article 10, paragraph 2 of the European Convention on Human Rights, and Article 3 of the Council of Europe Convention on Access to Official Documents.
The Constitution precisely prescribes under what conditions information in the possession of state bodies can be declared classified and in no case stipulates provision from the Draft Law that the data can be hidden from the public for “exercising of the authority of a body”.
International conventions ratified by Montenegro stipulate that restrictions on access to information must be necessary in a democratic society and proportionate to the aim of protection. Article 19, paragraph 3 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, as well as Article 3 of the Council of Europe Convention on Access to Official Documents, provides a precise list of reasons for possible limitations to access to information, and they do not stipulate that official documents may be secret because of “exercising of the authority of a body”.
If the Government adopts this Draft Law, it will have a very negative impact on the work of the media and civil society, and would make it almost impossible for journalists and NGOs to detect corruption and other violations of the law, but also to monitor the implementation of various government policies and obligations from the European integration process.
We remind that the European Commission in its reports on Montenegro, as well as the European Parliament in its resolutions, repeatedly urged the Government of Montenegro to increase the transparency of its work and enable access to information to the public. Such Draft Law adopted by the Government is contrary to these recommendations and represents a huge step back.
For these reasons, we urge the Government to withdraw the Draft Law on amendments to the Law on Classified Information, organizs a public debate on this document and ensure that it is in accordance with the Montenegrin Constitution and international standards that our country is obligated to respect.