On the International Day for Universal Access to Information, Human Rights Action (HRA) highlights inefficient protection of the right of access to information on the part of the Agency for Protection of Personal Data and Free Access to Information, which chronically violates the 15-day legal deadline for deciding on appeal about denial of this right. For example, the Agency recently decided on HRA appeals after seven months, rather than 15 days of their submission. Administrative Inspection has not contributed to improving the situation, because while acting upon the HRA complaint, the Inspection – contrary to the law – accepted justification provided by the Agency Council Chairman that this institution cannot comply with the legal deadlines due to an insufficient number of “administrators”. In doing so, the Inspection encouraged all state agencies to violate the law with the same justification. For more detail about this case in Montenegrin language please see the case study.
The deadlines for delivering information and deciding on appeals for withholding information are set forth in the Act on Free Access to Information in order to ensure timely access to information, transparent operation of state agencies in the public interest and efficient protection of the right to access to information. Timely access to information is of particular importance for journalists and NGOs that monitor the work of state bodies. The European Court of Human Rights has defined information as “a perishable commodity”, whose publication cannot be delayed, and certainly not more than seven months of submission of the appeal.
We urge the Agency Chairman Mr. Čedomir Mitrović to take appropriate measures and ensure that more “administrators” be employed by the Agency, so that the Agency should be able to comply with the law and ensure timely protection of the right of access to information. We also urge the Minister of Interior Affairs Mr. Goran Danilović to provide for legal operation of the Administrative Inspection in the public interest of ensuring respect for the right of access to information and protection of human rights.