The Coalition for Freedom of Access to Information, which comprises a group of civil society organizations, stated that, compared to earlier versions of the same act, the Draft is improved, but that some of its shortcomings still remain.
As we wrote earlier, at the end of May this year the Ministry of Public Administration and Local Self-Government published the previous version of the Draft Law and opened a public debate. According to the coalition’s website, the current proposal has been improved in comparison to the earlier draft by deleting Article 13 on abuse of rights. Also, according to the existing draft, public authorities will not be given legal permission to withhold information of public importance on the account that acting on the request for information would burden their functioning.
“This is very important because no precise criteria were specified for the basis for denial of information, so that it could have been expected that the authorities would use this solution for unfounded denial of information”, states the Coalition for Free Access to Information.
The Coalition also stated that the new draft doesn’t limit the total amount of fines that can be imposed in relation with the execution of the Commissioner’s decisions, and that the Draft Law regulates the content of newsletters on public procurement, inspections and audits.
However, according to the Coalition, some shortcomings remain: “First of all, the inability to file a complaint to the Commissioner in cases where information is denied by the Government and its services, the National Assembly, the President, the Supreme Court, the Constitutional Court and the Republic Public Prosecutor’s Office. The National Bank of Serbia is now joining these bodies. In those cases, it is possible to conduct only administrative disputes, which in practice last for years”.
The civil society warned earlier that the COVID-19 pandemic was used in Serbia to further narrow the public’s right to know, especially since all procurements related to the pandemic were declared secret.
Translation: Iskra Krstić
This article was ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED in Serbian on Oct 12, 2021.