Over the last decade the journalism techniques have evolved as well as the challenges that require professional and accurate coverage. The fast-changing world of technology needs professional journalism that can respond to the emerging challenges without sacrificing ethics or the standards. The need for a more coherent and cross-sectoral approach in addressing the digital rights challenges has become particularly visible during the COVID-19 pandemic, as the fast- evolving use of advanced technologies, online violations and privacy breaches are posing serious concerns. The proposed actions are addressing emerging trends connected with the process of digital development in the targeted region, as well as past events in the online arena that have proved capable to easily reshape democracies and daily lives. The project relies on the principles of human rights, security and the safety of personal data and the responsible use of innovative technologies.
The overall objective is to advance public knowledge of and ability to assert the right to information, to discern disinformation and abuse online and to access and contribute to the promotion of the right to freedom of opinion and expression as guaranteed by the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the public discussion on which official decision- making is based. The project will work to achieve these outcomes: 1) Determined patterns in digital freedom violations in the targeted region that will serve as a basis for development of protection and prevention mechanisms, policy recommendation legal framework improvements; 2) Societies better informed on current digital freedom violations and digital rights in Bosnia and Herzegovina, Montenegro, North Macedonia, Serbia, and Kosovo*; 3) Enhanced role of civil society in the process of reporting violations, defending their rights, issuing policy and legal framework recommendations and dissemination of accurate news and information.
BIRN capacitated monitors will conduct the monitoring to keep track of the occurring digital rights violations that will be compiled in a comprehensive digital rights report and presented at the project’s final event. To unleash the power of journalism, BIRN will organize trainings to provide editorial, financial, and mentoring support to journalists for producing in-depth digital rights stories. Also, BIRN will use the capacities of a newly established SEE Digital Rights Network to ensure the engagement of the Network’s member organizations from the region (national and regional meetings) and to streamline the advocacy efforts in order to increase the impact of the action.
IF we establish online platforms for mapping and tracking digital rights violations in the targeted region, trained journalists will use gathered data for producing quality journalistic content, and network of stakeholders will follow-up on these findings, THEN we will improve the understanding of existing online threats among general population and governments in the region and will initiate necessary policy changes, BECAUSE only citizens able to critically think can make informed choices and fulfill their watchdog role.
UN Democracy Fund
To advance public knowledge of and ability to assert the right to information, to discern disinformation and abuse online and to access and contribute to promotion of the right to freedom of opinion and expression as guaranteed by the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the public discussion on which official decision-making is based.
- Develop and launch databases for continuous monitoring of digital rights violations in Kosovo and Montenegro;
- Monitor digital rights violations on a regional level in targeted countries;
- Produce and publish a cross-regional report on the state of digital rights;
- Draft and issue recommendations in regards to digital rights violations in the targeted countries;
- Organize a public event to present the digital rights report’s findings;
- Train ten (10) journalists from media outlets in Bosnia and Herzegovina, Montenegro, North Macedonia, Serbia and Kosovo on boosting their skills to report on digital rights violations;
- Produce and publish ten (10) in-depth investigative stories by trained journalists, dealing with the state of digital rights in their countries;
- Include new members in the SEE Digital Rights Network;
- Organize five national and three regional meetings with SEE Digital Rights Network members.
Vulnerable groups were the most targeted group in terms of online hostility and hatred during the COVID-19 related state of emergencies, particularly those from the LGBT+, Roma, Jewish, female-identifying, and migrant communities. Online attacks contained discriminatory language and derogatory terms with women facing misogynistic and gender-based harassment and the LGBT+ community facing hated-fueled homophobic attacks. The harmful patterns of behavior from the offline world are transposed to the online sphere, where perpetrators feel more able to attack without fear to be held accountable for any wrongdoing. The project will contribute to more professional reporting on different vulnerable groups’ digital rights violations, sensitizing both journalists and general public on issues these marginalized groups are facing. Through its publishing component the project will create space for the voices and experiences of vulnerable groups to be heard.
The project is made possible through support from the United Nations Democracy Fund, UNDEF.