Sunday, September 6, 2009

Law on Data Secrecy - Democratic Control, Yes or No?

By: Miodrag Stosic

Belgrade, Aug.25 ,2009 (Serbia Today) - The word Democracy literally means : an order in which the people rule. However, since societies started to grow in their complexity, the meaning of democracy has changed into a rule of representatives. They rule by the decisions of majority, and people monitor their work and control them. For the last several weeks, in Serbia, it is being worked on a Law on data secrecy, which should establish necessary public monitoring over secret services’ work.
However, even before the Government sent its proposition to the Assembly, there had been tumultuous reactions. Representatives of "Yukom" and "Belgrade Center for Human Rights" resigned from the working group that made law proposition, protesting because the standards this law brings are unacceptable for organizations that are into human rights matter. Milan Antonijević from Yukom says that this law is in contradiction with some previously adopted laws : Law on free access to information of public importance and Law on personal data protection. By Antonijević, in this new law proposition, there is a controversial article 40, which limits ombudsman’s permanent insight into public services’ data.
Two years ago, the “Coalition for access to information“ was established, and made its own law proposition. Antonijević, a member of this coalition, says that its proposition is different from the Government’s, for the Government’s proposition limits democratic control of security sector and introduced 4 new types of limitation: state secret, highly classified, classified and internal. This determines that the secrecy is under authority of Presidents of the Assembly, Government and Republic, and directors of public authority organizations.
Rodoljub Šabić, information trustee, claims that a new law in this field is necessary, but existent proposition is below any level. It’s because this law would degrade ombudsman’s position, by limiting his access to information. This matter is especially important, for ombudsman up to date had an absolute insight to information of public importance. Moreover, that matter is arranged the same way in neighboring countries. Šabić says that it is obvious what sort of data do trustee and ombudsmen need to perform their duties. A new law would equal their authorities with those of public prosecutors and other organizations that need special licenses to get insight to data.
Slobodan Homen, Secretary of the State Ministry of Justice, says that law proposition isn’t perfect, but because of that there will be a debate in the Assembly during which all the amendments will be discussed. He adds that author’s idea is to establish absolute secrecy of some data, to the extent that even President of the Republic shouldn’t know about them.
Data publicity is a topic that should be regulated in accordance with European and world standards, especially in fields of security and public purchases. Besides this law, Serbia has a problem with Law on information. These two laws regulate the same matter, that is called - Democratic Control of Government. It should be provided, because without it, there is neither open Society, nor Democracy.

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