Pandemic politics in the Western Balkans

In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, countries around the world have introduced various legal measures and technological solutions, which have raised particular concerns for the respect of human rights during this global public health crisis. In such circumstances, privacy and personal data protection were among the first victims, while other rights, such as freedom of expression and information, followed soon. The Western Balkans are no exception – during the pandemic, there were many cases of violations of digital rights and freedoms, which threatened to further reduce the overall human rights situation riding on the public fear of a major health crisis.

The policy paper “State of pandemonium: Digital rights in the Western Balkans and COVID-19” authored by Danilo Krivokapić, Bojan Perkov and Davor Marko aims to point out how major crises affect basic democratic achievements and highlight that the pandemic must not be used under any circumstances to irreversibly reduce human rights standards, especially not by using intrusive technologies. The authors’ findings highlight that there are already many problems in the Western Balkans regarding digital rights and freedoms, especially when it comes to privacy and security of personal data, disinformation and attacks on journalists, which only worsened during the COVID-19 pandemic. 

The authors point out that the adequate implementation of policies and regulations in the fields of data protection and information security, enabling the development of a favorable environment for unhindered work of journalists and media, as well as improving digital literacy and digital competencies of citizens are steps of key importance for the future.

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