Digital Rights in the Time of COVID-19

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BIRN and SHARE Foundation are bringing you the latest updates and cases of arbitrary arrests, surveillance, phone tapping, privacy breaches and other digital rights violations as countries of Central and Southeast Europe impose emergency legislation to combat the COVID-19 outbreak.

Photo: Nataša Ilić

In response to the coronavirus pandemic, some governments are enhancing surveillance, increasing censorship, and restricting the free flow of information. As our lives moved from the public to the digital sphere, many freedoms were also suspended, while the burden of responsibility for violations fell on citizens as governments imposed restrictions that, in many cases, flouted normal standards of human rights.

Just in the last two weeks, 80 people have been arrested, some of them jailed, for spreading fake news and disinformation, with the most draconian examples in Turkey, Serbia, Hungary and Montenegro.

Governments in Montenegro and Moldova made public the personal health data of people infected with COVID-19, while official websites and hospital computer systems suffered cyberattacks in Croatia and Romania. Some countries like Slovakia are considering lifting rights enshrined under the EU General Data Protection Regulation, while Serbia imposed surveillance and phone tracking to limit freedom of movement.

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