Transparency Serbia (TS) says that if there had been a violation of the government’s resolution on informing the population about the situation and consequences of the COVID-19 virus, no one would have been able to bear the consequences; the decision was revoked after two days.
“Whether the government really intended to introduce censorship or whether it was just a reckless attempt to suppress the dissemination of misinformation, the fact remains that matters relating to the Constitution and the law cannot be settled by a government decree, even in a state of emergency,” the TS says.
The organisation points out that, under the Law on Protection of the Population from Infectious Diseases, “providing information to the population is the responsibility of public health bodies or institutions” and this decision cannot be abolished by a government decree.
Discover the most important foreign investments in Serbia in 2019: click here!
In essence, the problem is that the decree prevents citizens from being precisely informed by those organizations which, by their nature, have such information and can verify its accuracy, i.e. directors and other employees of health institutions.
“During a state of emergency, the government may issue regulations concerning legal issues and even restrict certain constitutional rights (e.g. freedom of movement). However, even in this case the government is not authorised to regulate acts other than as provided for in the regulations”, the TS adds.
Transparency Serbia also argues that the measure adopted by the government would undermine the implementation of the law on free access to information.
“Since the right of access to information can only be restricted by law, if a citizen wanted to have access to information, e.g. from the Clinical Centre of Niš or from the Mayor of Valjevo, they would not be able to legally stop him or her from obtaining that information. Therefore, according to the law, persons authorised by these institutions and local authorities would also suffer negative consequences due to their actions”.
TS also states that citizens have a right of access to information more quickly in extraordinary circumstances.
(Novi Magazin, 02.04.2020)
This post is also available in: Italiano