Response to announced public debate on amendments to the Law on Free Access to Information

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 Expeditio

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”

Politikon Network

Montenegrin Committee of Lawyers for the Protection of Human Rights (CKZP)

NGO Prima

Financial and Business Literacy Institute

Association of Youth with Disabilities of Montenegro – UMHCG

NGO Anima

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 Nit

NGO Pandora

NGO Identity

NGO Hand to Hand

Media:

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

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