Tirana Internet Freedom Meet Hosts Journalists and Activists From Region

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BIRN Hub held a working conference in Tirana on September 24-28 for activists and journalists from Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Kosovo, North Macedonia, Montenegro and Serbia focusing on digital rights challenges.

The event, designed to both inspire and raise the capacities of participants in current digital rights challenges and kick-start new partnerships brought together over 30 participants. Sessions focused on three major pillars – experiences of vulnerable communities in the digital landscape; capacity building on current topics; and team-work and joint activity planning to counter the growing abuse of new technologies and improve the regional tech eco-system.

The first session, a panel discussion entitled “Black Mirror: Who are the people (ab) using the Internet to violate human rights?” brought together regional Digital Rights Monitors working on documenting digital rights violations on the BIRD Monitoring Database in an attempt to “reverse-engineer” the process of committing digital rights violations and provide a profile of the perpetrators.

This was followed by another panel, “Making it real: How online violence against LGBT groups leads to offline Violence”, focusing on human rights violations against the LGBT community taking place online, and their implications and consequences in the real world, especially having in mind the latest violence seen during Belgrade EuroPride. The speakers were Ana Petrović (Da se Zna, Serbia), Elena Gagovska (independent journalist, North Macedonia), Xheni Karaj (Aleanca LGBT, Albania) and Branko Ćulibrk (KVART, Bosnia and Herzegovina). Both panels were moderated by Matteo Mastracci, Digital Rights Researcher at BIRN Hub.

On day two, Gilbert Beyamba from Pollicy (Uganda) presented the Feminist Principles of the Internet and a Ugandan perspective on fighting for women’s rights. The day ended with a remote knowledge-transfer session held by Carlos Antonio Guerra Merlo (Internews) focused on data protection.

The third day kicked off with Mila Bajić, from SHARE Foundation, presenting their Cybersecurity Toolkit. It continued with a panel discussion about the regional research of corporate accountability of telecoms, carried out in Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, North Macedonia, Kosovo and Serbia using the methodology developed by Ranking Digital Rights. The session hosted the people conducting the research: Gjergj Erebara (Albania), Matteo Mastracci (Bosnia and Herzegovina), Bojan Stojkovski (North Macedonia), Xhorxhina Bami (Kosovo) and Tijana Uzelac (Serbia) and was moderated by Besar Likmeta from BIRN Albania. Leandro Ucciferi, Global Partnerships Manager at Ranking Digital Right, provided the introduction to the session.

Day 4 of the Tirana Internet Freedom Meet was more topic-focused and centred around issues of privacy. Lucie Audibert, from Privacy International, provided insight into the work and experiences from PI regarding this issue. After the session, the participants visited the infamous House of Leaves, once the headquarters of the Gestapo and later of the Sigurimi, the Communist-era Albanian secret police, and now a museum. The last session of the day was focused on Artificial Intelligence and on cases of its misuse in Latin America. This was held by Michel Souza from Derechos Digitales.

The final day of Tirana Internet Freedom Meet was focused on the activities of the South-East Europe Digital Rights Network, a regional coalition of CSOs working on improving the digital rights landscape.

The Tirana Internet Freedom Meet is a part the Greater Internet Freedom (GIF) project, funded by USAID and implemented by Internews and its regional and local partners.