The public has the right to know what and how the institutions work

Centre for Civic Education (CCE), on the occasion of the International Right to Know Day (29 September), recalls the importance of the full realization of this right as a powerful tool for fight against corruption and democratization of Montenegrin society.

Civil servants must have developed awareness of responsibility towards citizens, and thus make their work transparent, both through proactive disclosure of information, as well as through the effective handling of requests for access to information.

The adoption of the Free Access to Information Law has strengthened the normative framework that can ensure the transparency of the state authorities. Unfortunately, there is notable strong resistance towards the opening of the system to the public in the implementation of this Law. In addition, the practice indicates the need for further processing of the Law in order to avoid different interpretations by different authorities. First of all, it is necessary to improve the system of sanctions because there are frequent situations in which subjects who filed the petition do not receive a response and the Law is not providing effective mechanisms for further processing. This can, for example, refers to the fact that the Law has not fully specified which entities can be contacted in case of an adopted appeal of the Agency for protection of personal data and free access of information to make sure that a decision of second instance body was carried out. In the present case, as the basis of abuse appears silence of the administration, thus obstructing the establishment of transparency, for which in the future must be found an effective response by improving administrative procedures in the execution of the administrative act.

Montenegro continues to be very low on the list of countries that publicly disclose information about the work of its administration, which was noted as concerning in the EC Progress Report for 2013. Also, there still exists a large discrepancy between the right to free access of information and limiting power of the rules on the protection of personal data. Namely, the guidelines in the Law by which is determined what information includes content of utmost importance for the country or which availability should be limited or whose accessibility needs to be entirely disable due to possible abuse are not often clear and prevent public’s right to know to be available to everyone.

Mira Popović, programme assistant