The public was deprived of a public hearing about candidates for the Commissioner

The process in which the Committee for Culture and Information proposed to the National Assembly Milan Marinović for the new Commissioner for Information of Public Importance Personal Data Protection did not ensure that the choice between the candidates be based on the assessment and comparison of their qualifications, previous specific experience in the fields within the competence of the Commissioner and work plans. The public is unaware of the reasons why the candidate that the Committee voted for is better than the other candidates. In the absence of pre-set evaluation criteria, the selection was made uniquely by voting, the outcome of which indicates that that the main criteria for decision-making was the identity of the proponent, and not the candidate’s expertise.

The decision of the Committee for Culture and Information was preceded by a five-minute presentation of each candidate, the candidates’ answers to questions of the Committee and a separate voting for each candidate. Out of 11 present Committee members, 10 voted for Milan Marinović, who had been proposed by the Serbian Progressive Party parliamentary group. 6 members of opposition groups did not attend the session.

As the only remaining step is the MPs vote for or against the proposed candidate, it is clear that the selection of the head of an important independent institution is taking place in a manner contrary to principles that more than 100 civil society organisations have been advocating since last November. The candidates did not have the opportunity to inform the public nor MPs (with the exception of the Committee members) about their professional work that makes them worthy of this position. The process did not ensure that the public be acquainted with proposals and plans of the future Commissioner aiming to solve the problem of a continuing deterioration of the status of access to information of public importance occurring since 2016; and to fight off challenges arising from the application of the Law on Personal Data protection.

Having in mind the entire process, civil society organisations are prompting the Ministry of Public Administration and Local Self-Government to introduce in the draft amendments to the Law on Free Access to Information of Public Importance provisions that would guarantee the application of the openness and transparency criteria while selecting the Commissioner.

Signatories of this statement are: Belgrade Centre for Security Policy, CRTA, Lawyers’ Committee for Human Rights – YUCOM, Partners for Democratic Change Serbia, SHARE Foundation, Transparency Serbia and Open Society Foundation Serbia.