CCE’s proposal on the intoduction of plagiarism as criminal offense passed

Centre for Civic Education (CCE) commends the decision of Ministry of Justice regarding the adoption of comments and proposals by CCE and their incorporation within the new text of Amendments of Criminal Code, as stated in the Report from public discussion, published on the website of Ministry of Justice.

During the course of public debate, CCE has submitted a set of comments to Ministry of Justice with regards to draft of law on the Amendments of Criminal Code of Montenegro, with an emphasis on the definition of plagiarism as criminal offense, including the suggestion for creating a better balance between the need to protect the reputation of judicial officials and freedom of expression, thus of social critique as well. The report notes the adoption of both suggestions.

Adoption of proposal to criminalise plagiarism constitutes a solid basis not only for the processing of cases of plagiarism, but also for the prevention of most severe form of violation of academic ethic.

By setting this approach, Montenegro is positioning itself as leader in region in the fight against plagiarism when it comes to legislative framework. We assess that this act has conveyed a message to those who thought they were untouchable, to which we have pointed out through our study Academic honour in Montenegrin manner – plagiarism in Montenegro and (lack of) its processing.

CCE regrets for not having allies within Montenegrin universities in positioning of this issue on the Montenegrin social agenda. It primarily refers to University of Montenegro (UoM), which is financed from the public budget and which has an additional obligation to address each matter which is potentially non-academic, unethical and illegal with due attention. We hope that this will serve as an useful remark to UoM to more carefulluy listen to what CCE has to state, document or propose, as well as to show some resilience to critique, less egoism, and more willingness for joint work on the solution of undisputed issues, instead of wasting its resources on futile attempts of denunciation of CCE, which only further undermines the reputation of this institution.

Also, we have to commend the efforts of Ministry of Justice, which demonstrated during this amendments of Criminal Code the political will to harmonise real needs of society with the norms which adequately regulate certain issues, or plagiarism in this specific case. With the amendment of Article 233 (Violation of moral rights of author and interpreters), through the introduction of plagiarism as severe form of criminal offense, Ministry of Justice has upheld the proposal of CCE in its entirety, which was in general presented in 2016 in the form of a study Academic honour in Montenegrin manner – plagiarism in Montenegro and (lack of) its processing, and later through the specific legal norm contained in the comments of draft of law on the Amendments of Criminal Code. Furthermore, by incorporating this criminal offense into the corps of those that do not have the statute of limitations, Ministry of Justice has done more than CCE has requested in the first place and what seemed as doable, when we originally proposed the statute of limitations in the duration of 20 years.

CCE hopes that other ministries will follow this model more frequently when assessing comments and recommendations of civil society organisations, thereby considering the identified social need and quality of proposed norm regardless of origin of that proposal. Only with that approach, we can contribute to improvement of legislative, institutional and consequently the practical framework through joint efforts.

CCE expresses also its gratitude to all partners and donours who, with their support to our efforts in fight against corruption in education, contributed to this legislative progress.

Mira Popović, programme associate