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Draft constitution fails to provide effective guarantees for free expression, says ARTICLE 19

(ARTICLE 19/IFEX) - The following is a 10 May 2007 ARTICLE 19 press release:

Montenegro: New Constitution Weak on Freedom of Expression

A Memorandum by ARTICLE 19 highlights the failure of the new draft Constitution of the Republic of Montenegro to provide effective guarantees for freedom of expression. The proposed standard for restrictions on this fundamental right is low and the right of reply, as well as the right to claim damages for inaccurate media reporting, is given constitutional status.

The draft Constitution is being prepared as part of Montenegro's progress towards full independence after its May 2006 vote to separate from Serbia. The draft was adopted by the Parliament in April 2007 and it is now subject to public consultation before being adopted in final version.

Unfortunately, the draft Constitution fails to establish strong guarantees for freedom of expression which are line with international law. Some of the more serious problems are as follows:
- restrictions on freedom of expression are not required to be prescribed by law or to be necessary in a democratic society
- the draft provides constitutional status not only to an overbroad right of reply but also to the right to claim damages for inaccurate reporting in the media, contrary to the practice of other States, which do not put such remedies on par with the right to freedom of expression
- while prior censorship is generally ruled out, unduly broad exceptions to this are envisaged, for example to prevent incitement to hatred, which is dealt with in other democratic States through the subsequent imposition of sanctions
- there is no guarantee for the right to access information held by public bodies, which is specifically protected in many modern constitutions

The ARTICLE 19 Report can be downloaded at: http://www.article19.org/pdfs/analysis/montenegro-constitution-07.pdf

ARTICLE 19 is an independent human rights organisation that works around the world to protect and promote the right to freedom of expression. It takes its name from Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which guarantees freedom of expression.

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