Publication Date: April 2020
Research and Editorial Team: Andrej Petrovski, Bojan Perkov, Kristina Cendic, Filip Milosevic
Internet Freedoms in the Western Balkan Region

A specially-designed summary of the report has been produced and can be accessed in: English, Serbian, Bosnian and Albanian.

The study gives some final recommendations, such as:

• Private  and  state  actors  should  discontinue  exerting  pressures  on  online  media,  journalists  and  internet  users.  There is a visible trend of a range of verbal attacks, threats, smear campaigns and other forms of pressures which hinder the free flow of information online, which should be investigated with priority and dealt with in accordance with relevant laws.

• State institutions need to encourage a broad multi-stakeholder public debate on all legislative instruments (laws, bylaws etc.) concerning the respect for human rights on the internet and in relation to technology. As there are numerous challenges ahead, such as the possible use of artificial intelligence (AI) for the purposes of law enforcement, a wide social debate with civil society and expert community is necessary.

• States should ensure that media and information literacy programs are carried out on a national scale, especially among youth and in cooperation with educational institutions. Also, there is a need for media and literacy trainings for teachers and other educators.

• Further efforts are needed to protect net neutrality in the examined countries, i.e. in line with EU net neutrality rules,  as  it  is  crucial  for  the  healthy  development  of  the  digital  environment  and  provision  of  all  digital  services  under the same standards.

• Taking into account the start of application of the EU General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) in May 2018, it is needed to align the legal framework for personal data protection with the new EU standards. Serbia is the first country to adopt and start implementing the new Law on Personal Data Protection, which is based on GDPR, but still needs improvement. BiH, Albania and Kosovo should follow the example of Serbia and start reforms of personal data protection legislation as soon as possible.

• In  terms  of  surveillance  of  electronic  communications  and  access  to  retain  communications’  metadata,  it  needs  to  be  done  in  accordance  with  the  constitutional  guarantees  of  the  secrecy  of  communications,  privacy  and  the  protection of personal data, as well as with international human rights standards such as Article 8 of the European Convention  on  Human  Rights.  Also,  the  jurisprudence  of  the  European  Court  of  Human  Rights  in  these  matters  needs  to  be  taken  into  account.  Although  the  countries  in  question  are  not  EU  Member  States,  all  of  them  are  in  different stages of joining the EU and should therefore also consult the jurisprudence of the Court of Justice of the EU.

Tags: Digital rights Digital safety Western Balkans

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