Montenegro – Widely condemnded law does not deserve a second chance

Issued by Transparency International Secretariat

Together with its Montenegrin chapter, MANS, Transparency International reiterates its opposition to unconstitutional amendments to the Law on Classified Information in Montenegro, which would undermine the country’s freedom of information laws and anti-corruption efforts. The draft law was already withdrawn once by the government in March this year, after a coalition of 25 Montenegrin NGOs spoke out against it. The government is now proposing a ‘public debate’ over the draft law, without changing the previously withdrawn draft. The proposed public debate would consist of a single round-table meeting on 9 July 2019.

The proposed law would allow the government to declare information classified if its disclosure would affect the ability of a government body to function. It would also remove controls over the manner in which state bodies declare information classified.

“This brazen attempt by the government of Montenegro to push through this legislation after adding a veneer of public consultation is cynical and ill-intended,” said Delia Ferreira Rubio, Chair of Transparency International. “As we’ve previously said, the ability of a government agency to function in a corrupt manner beneath a shroud of secrecy should never be protected by law.”

In its latest report on Montenegro, the European Commission said that Montenegro should reverse the growing trend of public institutions declaring information classified as a matter of priority, as it prevents effective oversight by civil society.

“There is no doubt that the government has proposed these amendments to hide corruption,” said Vanja Calovic, Executive Director of MANS. “A number of court rulings have already confirmed the practice of classifying information to cover corrupt offences. The public of Montenegro have a constitutional right to access information held by the government. Despite clear requirements to improve public access to information, the government is taking Montenegro backwards and further limiting space for civil society and media. This, in a captured state ruled by the same elite for over 30 years.”

Transparency International and MANS insist that the aspects of the law that contravene the Constitution of Montenegro and the government’s obligations under international agreements should be removed from the draft law. Any public consultation regarding the amendments should be conducted in a thorough manner aimed at securing the widest possible participation.

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