Ministry of Defense to withdraw proposed amendments to the Law on Classified Information

We invite the Ministry of Defense to delete provisions, from the proposed amendments to the Law on Classified Information, which envisage unconstitutional hiding of information of public importance. The Government withdrew the same amendments to the Law from the parliamentary procedure after the public criticism from international and Montenegrin NGOs, but the Ministry of Defence put the same proposal to the public consultation.

The proposed amendments allow all state bodies to declare information as secret, if its disclosure would influence “functioniong of that institution”. Such a broad definition of reasons which could lead to classification of documents so that they are away from public are neither in accordance with the Constitution nor with international standards.

Article 51 of the Constitution of Montenegro guarantees to all citizens the right to access information and provides that it can be limited only if it is in the interest of protection of life; public health; morality and privacy; conduct of criminal proceedings; security and defence of Montenegro; foreign, monetary and economic policy. International standards and precise exemptions from the application of the right to access information are clearly laid down in Article 19, paragraph 3 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, as well as Article 10, paragraph 2 of the European Convention on Human Rights.

These amendments to the Law were proposed after increasing practice of state authorities to hide key information about their work and state expenditure that were previously publicly available.

In the latest report, the European Commission strongly criticised such practice of the institutions and noted that the priority is to break such a trend and improve both practice and legal regulations.

Instead, the proposed amendments to the Law introduce even greater space for hiding information and preventing NGOs and journalists to be watchdogs of the work of state authorities, discovering corruption and violation of the human rights, and monitoring implementation of government policies and obligations taken within the European integration process.

Therefore, we invite the Ministry to respect the Constitution and the laws of this country, as well as international conventions, and to remove from the proposed amendments to the Law on Classified Information provisions that limit the right to access information, as well as the work of non-governmental organizations and journalists.

The announcement was signed by 36 Montenegrin non-governmental organizations.

Centre for Civic Education – CCE
Center for Development of Non-Governmental Organizations – CDNGO
Center for Democracy and Human Rights – CEDEM
Center for Monitoring and Research – CEMI
Human Rights Action – HRA
Institute Alternative
NGO Green Home
Politikon Network
NGO Media Center
Center for Civil Liberties – CEGAS
Association of Professional Journalists of Montenegro
NGO Eco Team
Women’s Rights Center
Organization KOD
NGO New Horizon
ANIMA – Women’s and Peace Education Center
NGO Victims of Bankruptcy in Montenegro
NGO Ecological Society Breznica
Montenegrin Committee of Lawyers for the Protection of Human Rights
NGO 35mm
NGO Hand in Hand
MSJA-Dr. Karton Schneider-Jacoby
Association of the Youth with Disabilities – UMHCG
Center for Investigative Journalism of Montenegro – CIN Montenegro
Union of Free Trade Unions of Montenegro
NGO Prima
Foundation Hand of Friendship
NGO Institute for Business and Financial Literacy
Center for Protection and Research of Birds – CZIP
Foundation Help – Action for the North Montenegro
Ecological Movement OZON
NGO Expeditio
NGO Pandora
NGO Association for the Implementation of Rights – UZIP
NGO Network for Affirmation of the Non-Governmental Sector – MANS