OSCE Ambassador Statements Mar International Right to Know Day Event

30 September 2009

by Yvette M. Chin

Podgorica, Montenegro — The head of the the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) mission to Montenegro, Ambassador Paraschiva Badescu, committed a diplomatic faux pas in the middle of an International Right to Know Day event, asserting that requests for information “need to be justified.” Civil society organizations rejected these unfounded claims as contrary to international norms including the European Convention on Access to Official Documents, which guarantees the right of access to information to all citizens without placing any additional requirements on them to justify their interests.

The NGO coalition MANS opposes the statements made by OSCE representative Badescu, which have marred OSCE’s right to know day event, intended to bring attention to an OSCE-supported public awareness campaign to inform people about their rights under the Law on Free Access to Information. Guests included the Head of the OSCE Mission to Montenegro, Ambassador Paraschiva Badescu; the Director of the Human Resource Management Authority, Svetlana Vukovic, and the Assistant Minister of Culture, Sport and Media, Zeljko Rutovic.

According to the MANS press statement, Ambassador Badescu’s “lack of information about such basic facts unfortunately has not prevent [her] from expressing such inaccurate and baseless assertions (in direct contravention of the OSCE’s own mandate to strongly support the implementation of this law). On the other hand, such statements from Ms. Badescu are directly in line with the positions of some individuals currently representing government institutions. In order to justify attempts to conceal information, these representatives are forwarding conspiracy theories that label NGOs as ‘spies’ and ‘foreign hirelings’ who for unknown reasons seem to insist on abusing the state by lodging freedom of information requests.”

The irony of Ambassador Badescu’s statements was highlighted by the fact that the OSCE-supported campaign comprised of promotional leaflets about rights under the law, allowing the public access to ask for, receive, use, and disseminate information filed with government agencies. The OSCE mission in Montenegro was mandated to provide assistance and support to assist the Montenegran government with reform while maintaining a strategic partnership with civil society.

Freedominfo.org contacted the OSCE Mission in Montenegro about the incident and to obtain a copy of Ambassador Badescus prepared statement. In an e-mail response, the OSCE spokesperson expressed the OSCE’s “regret, [that] the statement by Ambassador Badescu was not accurately reproduced by all media present, possibly due to language issues.” With help from MANS, freedominfo.org has included an audio recording of Ambassador Badescu’s responses to journalists’ questions.

LINKS

MANS press release (from the MANS website)

MANS press release (in English)

Audio record Amb.Badescu replies to journalists’ questions

News coverage from DAN-online

News coverage from Vijesti

Prepared statement by Ambassador Badescu

Information about the OSCE event

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