Centre for Civic Education (CCE) warns of the fact that the website of the Agency for Personal Data Protection and Free Access to Information (APDP) does not work or malfunctions for a long time, thereby disabling access to numerous documents and information of public importance. The APDP is responsible for supervising the application of the Law on Free Access to Information, and this blocks the Agency itself from fulfilling its obligations under that law.
As it was stated from that institution at the end of July, it has experienced cyber-attacks, which is why their website was not in function for more than ten days. They also noted that it was the third attack in the last few months, and that the previous ones were in March and June of this year. Both of these, as it is noted, were reported to the National Computer Incident Response Teams (CIRT).
Although almost two months have passed since the last announcement of the APDP, in which it is noted that the website is functioning again – this website is still not functional, more precisely, when you try to access it, there is a blank page without any content.
Surprisingly, the APDP has not yet taken appropriate measures to make the website functional, which is obligatory, while at the same time, during supervision, it pointed out to authorities the non-functionality of some links on their websites. The last of these cases was the one with the website of the Ministry of Education, Science, Culture and Sport, to which the CCE also publicly pointed out.
Therefore, CCE points to contradictions in acts of the APDP, but also reminds to a non-prescribed duty of that body to set an example to other state bodies by its deeds. This is of particular importance because proactive access to information in Montenegro has not yet been sufficiently accomplished, to which the state of the institution in charge of controlling and punishing the irresponsible bodies is not in favour. This does not contribute to the credibility of APDP’s work.
The website of the APDP contained a large number of documents, including decisions issued by the Agency as a second instance body. It contained data significant for submission of the request for free access to information to the authorities and the Agency itself as a first instance body, as well as for instructions for filing a complaint to APDP as the second instance body.
CCE considers that due to a large number of ongoing proceedings before the APDP, as well as the need to communicate better with citizens on certain issues, the website must function as a platform on which all the information could be updated, including the public releases – given that the public has been informed about the work of the APDP for some time solely through media statements of individuals from that institution.
CCE will send to APDP a request for free access to information, asking them for all the data that refer to costs and conditions of website administration, while on the same issue it will address the Council of the Agency, requesting to investigate whether the director’s actions are in accordance with the law, and insisting on a detailed investigation of all the circumstances that caused this state – all to bring the site to the service of the public interest as soon as possible.
Snežana Kaluđerović, Senior Legal Advisor