Can a Plane Fly without a Pilot?
Although more than 70 civil society organizations, media and representatives of the business, professional and scientific communities had made an initiative for holding a transparent process of election of the Commissioner for Information of Public Importance and Personal Data Protection (hereinafter referred to as: Commissioner) as early as in November 2018, it was only in late July this year that Milan Marinovic, the former acting president of the Belgrade Misdemeanor Court, was elected the new Commissioner by the Serbian National Assembly. Since Rodoljub Sabic’s term of office had expired in December 2018, this independent institution did not have anybody at its helm for nearly seven months.
The postponement of (or, more precisely, carelessness about) the process of election of a new Commissioner was no surprise for many, and it was viewed as yet another confirmation of the careless attitude of the legislative (and executive) authorities towards the country’s independent institutions. However, the key issue is whether and to what extent this interregnum has undermined the functioning of the institution charged with the protection of two rights which largely represent the basis of a free and democratic society:
- the right to a free access to information, which enables citizens to control the work of public officials, and places a strong anti-corruption mechanism at the disposal of each individual; and
- right to privacy, which lies in the foundations of human dignity and represents a barrier to the infringement of individuals’ private lives by the authorities (and today also large corporations), and therefore also an unavoidable requirement for human freedom.