The new Law on Free Access to Information was adopted in 2017, bringing some changes to the first Law which was adopted in 2012. The Law regulates the way of requesting information, as well as the manner of acting upon request, at the same time prescribing 15 days deadline for answering the request. However, in 2019 the Draft Law Amending the Law on Free Access to Information was introduced which caused a lot of reaction among CSOs. Namely, draft law includes new restrictions that are not in according with the Constitution and that would severely limit possibility to exercise this constitutional right. According to critics, particularly problematic is provision where public officials can determine which information is of public interest and therefore public has access to it. Another problematic solution is that a request for free access to information can be declined if it requires to many information. It is clear that these provisions significantly increase limitations much further to those in Constitution and leave a lot of space for subjective interpretations. The Law is still in debate and should be adopted in 2020.
The Law on Electronic Communication regulates access to public communication services and the internet. There are no limitations to who can use these services, as that can be any physical or legal entity that signs a contract with an operator and agrees to operator’s conditions of using services. An operator, a provider of public communications services, may restrict access to its services, that is, terminate a subscriber’s contract and terminate the subscription contract, if the latter has failed to meet the obligations due or has breached other conditions specified in the subscription contract. The provider must define in general terms what measures are implemented in the case of certain offenses and the time limit within which the measures are implemented, which must be commensurate with the violation committed and non-discriminatory.
Article 119 of the Law on Electronic Communication prescribes that it is forbidden to listen, eavesdrop or store the content and data of the communication, i.e. its interruption or supervision by other persons, without the consent of the users of that communication, except in cases when it is necessary for the purpose of transmitting the message (fax, e-mail, SMS, voicemail etc.), or when there is legal authority to do so. However, operators are required to provide adequate hardware and software at their network, and at their own expense, to enable lawful interception of communications (Article 125).
0 – 20 Fully disabling environment20 – 40 Disabling environment
40 – 60 Partially enabling environment60 – 80 Enabling environment
80 – 100 Fully enabling environment
Very few CSOs reported that their channels of communication were blocked (6.25%), while the same number stated that they faced restrictions to access information online of offline. It was not specified what kind of restriction was applied, nor for how long communication means were blocked. One informal group member stated that phone calls, Viber and WhatsApp were monitored on several occasions, and they weren’t able to access their Facebook account.
CSOs and informal groups representatives didn’t report prosecution for activity in an online network or initiative. The Police Department noted there were no online groups that were banned nor any of their members were prosecuted or detained. Ombudsman also stated that there were no cases of breaching human or any other rights of members of online groups or initiatives. When it comes to accessibility to the internet, according to the Agency for Electronic Communications and Postal Activities reports on the number of internet users in Montenegro, there were 178,587 internet connections at the end of 2019. Out of that number, 94,01% are physical entities and the rest are legal entities. As it is very common that several family members connect to one internet connection, the precise number of population that use internet cannot be determined. Mobile operators do not publish number of mobile internet users, which makes it more difficult to determine percentage of population who are internet users. However, World bank reported that in 2018, 75% of the population in Montenegro had access to internet.
Analyzing the average internet price based on offers available at internet providers, it was determined that price per 1GB is 3.47 EUR. Bearing in mind the fact that the average NET income in Montenegro is 517 EUR, the internet is affordable, as price per 1GB is 0.67% of average income.
When it comes to communication tools, 6.25% of CSOs reported their communication tools were hacked or blocked. One informal group participant reported there were more than 50 attempts each month to hack their social media accounts, as they were getting warnings on their accounts that someone tried to log in their account.