State of pandemonium: Digital rights in the Western Balkans and COVID-19
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The COVID-19 pandemic caused many shockwaves globally, eg disruption to daily interaction (physical and social distancing measures), disruption to education, disruption to work, restrictions on freedom of movement, etc. But, particular concern has been raised for the respect of human rights during this global public health crisis. Countries across the world have introduced various legal measures and technological solutions to combat consequences of COVID-19, leading to increased intrusion into their citizens’ lives. In such circumstances, privacy and personal data protection were among the first ‘victims’, while infringement of other rights, such as freedom of expression and information, came soon after. The Western Balkans are no exception – numerous breaches of digital rights and freedoms could be witnessed during the pandemic, threatening to further decrease the overall state of human rights riding on the public fear of a major health crisis. The purpose of this paper is to show that the pandemic should not under any circumstances be used as a carte blanche for irreversible reduction of human rights standards, especially through the use of intrusive technologies. The authors’ findings presented in the paper highlight that there are already many issues in the Western Balkans in terms of digital rights and freedoms, particularly concerning personal data privacy and security, misinformation and attacks on journalists, which only deteriorated during the COVID-19 pandemic.