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The Law on Free Access to Information must be above other laws, because it regulates the constitutional right of citizens, which cannot be undermined by other legal acts. This was the message from the round table organised by anti-corruption NGO Network for affirmation of NGO Sector (MANS).
The EU Ambassador to Montenegro, Aivo Orav, asserted that the secrecy could facilitate corruption. “The importance of the right to free access to information cannot be emphasised enough, especially for the organisations and journalists who cannot do their job professionally without access to the relevant documents,” said Orav.
He recalled that the European Commission, in its latest report, urged the institutions to ensure more transparency and accountability, especially in the areas which are vulnerable to corruption and added that the commitment to transparency is non-negotiable because the candidate countries need to implement necessary reforms in the area of the rule of law.
“The latest European Commission report on Montenegro called on Montenegrin institutions to ensure greater transparency and accountability, especially in areas prone to corruption and in sectors dealing with the allocation of large portions of the state budget or property. The report noted that the implementation of the Law on Free Access to Information has not contributed to ensuring more transparency and accountability of public services since the authorities have continued to declare the requested information as classified, thus excluding it from the scope of this law’s applicability,” Orav noted.
The Public Administration Minister, Suzana Pribilovic, assessed that the employees in the public administration must understand that the obligation of the administration is not only to provide information of public importance when asked, but to publish them themselves. She underlined that the ministry formed the working group, made of the representatives of the competent institutions, the NGOs, and the university, whose task is to prepare the amendments to the law.
The Executive Director of MANS, Vanja Calovic Markovic, said that the government isn't honest in this process, highlighting that this law could be fixed in half an hour, if there was political will. She added that Montenegro had a very good Law on Free Access to Information, which enabled MANS to reveal many cases of corruption, emphasising that the document was changed by secret amendments without the parliamentary discussion.