11 September 2004

The benefits of greater transparency for Southeast European countries plagued by corruption and low public trust in government was the subject of discussion in featuring government officials and civil society groups from across the region in a seminar in Budva, Montenegro, September 9-10, 2004..


In a region where state secrecy was the norm for decades, freedom of information (FOI) laws hold the promise of open government. Macedonia, Montenegro and Serbia are the only countries in Southeast Europe still without the right to access government-held information enshrined in law. The seminar reviewed a Montenegrin FOI law that has been under discussion for two years but still is not finalized.


Participants also considered the draft FOI law currently under consideration by the Serbian parliament, which has so far failed to take changes recommended by local NGOs, the Council of Europe, ARTICLE 19 and the Open Society Justice Initiative into consideration. The suggested amendments would bring the law into line with international standards.


Bringing together officials and activists from countries with FOI laws—Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Croatia, Moldova, Romania, Slovenia and Turkey—the seminar gave participants the opportunity to share strategies on how to implement transparency provisions. There was also guidance for administrators challenged by the information management burdens of open government as they endeavor to fulfill information requests from citizens.


The seminar will bring together representatives of the Freedom of Information Advocates Network who will be preparing to mark the second annual International Right to Know Day, September 28, 2004.


The seminar is organized by ARTICLE 19, the Justice Initiative and the Montenegrin Helsinki Committee, with the support of the EU. The meeting is part of a series of activities by the Justice Initiative and ARTICLE 19 to promote access to information in Southeast Europe.

For further information, please contact:
ARTICLE 19: Luitgard Hammerer: (+44) (0) 207 789292, Sara Buchanan, (+44) 7810750144.
Justice Initiative: Helen Darbishire + 1 917 361 5618, Eszter Filippinyi + 36 1 327 3102 x 2328
Montenegrin Helsinki Committee: Slobodan Franovic (+381) 69 053 191