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The right to access information is threatened, and the announced changes to the law do not solve all important problems

Press release of the Coalition for Free Access to Information on the occasion of the International Day of the Public's Right to Know

The Coalition for Freedom of Access to Information, on the occasion of September 28, the International Day of the Public's Right to Know, points out that the citizens of Serbia have not been able to exercise their constitutional and legal rights in many important cases in the past 12 months.

There has been no progress on long-standing unresolved issues, including non-enforcement of the Information Commissioner's decision, lack of accountability for such violations, and disregard for requests for access to information by the Government of the Republic of Serbia. Regarding the report of the Commissioner for 2020, the Assembly has not yet adopted conclusions.

In addition, the COVID-19 pandemic was used to narrowing even more the public's right to know by declaring information on all procurement related to the pandemic secret.

Extensive amendments to the Law on Free Access to Information of Public Importance, which we have been expecting for years, have not yet been completed. The proposals made by the Coalition during the public debate contributed to significant improvements in the new draft of this act compared to previous versions.

However, the Ministry of Public Administration and Local Self-Government has not yet announced reasons for not accepting other proposals from the public hearing. At the same time, the Coalition for Freedom of Access to Information is still waiting for Commissioner's decisions on appeals against this ministry due to non-compliance with the requests related to drafting the Law.

For some of the critical problems that have been obviously demonstrated in the application of the Law, solutions are still not offered. Thus, citizens will be still deprived of adequate legal protection when the Government and Government Services, the Assembly, the President, the Supreme and Constitutional Court, the Republic Public Prosecutor's Office deny them information, as well as the National Bank, after the adoption of amendments to the Law.  Such corruption of the Law is harmful and contrary to the constitutional principle of prohibiting the narrowing of the achieved level of human rights.

The Coalition once again calls on the Ministry of Public Administration and Local Self-Government to further improve the text of the amendments to the Law, to fulfill the obligations from the Action Plan for the Implementation of the Media Strategy and the Action Plan for Chapter 23 with the EU and to ensure the availability of all information of public importance and the responsibility of the heads of institutions who grossly violate the rights of citizens.

Belgrade, September 28, 2021

Members of the Coalition:

RERI

Transparency Serbia

Open Society Foundation

Praxis

Civic initiatives

CRTA

Youth Initiative for Human Rights

Yucom

Partners for Democratic Change Serbia

Belgrade Center for Human Rights

Belgrade Center for Security Policy

Human Rights Committee Nis

Share Foundation

Toplica Center for Democracy and Human Rights

Citizens' Association Sretenje

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