Institute Alternative (IA) has prepared and submitted to the Ministry of Culture comments on Draft Law on Amendments to the Law on Free Access to Information (FOI). Amendments to the Law on FOI introduced provisions that regulate reuse of public sector information and therefore are important for the whole Montenegrin community advocating openness of data held by state authorities.
First attempt to transpose the European Commission Directives governing this issue was a Draft Law on Free Use of Public Data, which we have criticised because of the large number of ambiguities and suggested to introduce these provisions into the existing Law on FOI, which now has been done.
However, despite the progress that has been made compared to the previous version of the document, the one that is now offered to the public hearing can also be significantly improved. Our key observations relate to broad and vaguely defined provisions that, among other things, regulate:
- Conditions for reuse of information – introduction of a new degree of restriction of access to information and its use is vague;
- Rejection of the request for reuse – two out of seven listed grounds for rejecting request are quite unreasonable and unjustified, thereby creating a significant space for groundless refusal of access;
- Costs of procedure for reuse of information – general provisions referring this issue leave wide space for misuses;
- Open Data Portal – this will probably remain only a good idea if the Law does not prescribe obligation for contracting authorities to submit data.
Although the existing provisions of the Law on FOI are not subject to this Draft Law, we offered some amendments related to general problems in the implementation of the Law on FOI, and that could also negatively affect reuse. Hence, the following issues must be solved:
- vaguely defined deadline for acting of the authority upon the request for free access to information;
- bad practice of publishing the decision approving access to information, and not the information itself;
- legal loophole which allows authorities not to act upon the decisions of the Council of the Agency for Protection of Personal Data and the Free Access to Information on the appeal of the claimant;
- capacities of the Agency for Protection of Personal Data and the Free Access to Information must be strengthened, in accordance with the existing, but in particular with the new competences that these amendments are introducing.
Here you can find IA Comments on Draft Law on Amendments to the Law on Free Access to Information in entirety (only in Montenegrin).