Human rights at risk as COVID-19 patient details released
❗️Ukoliko želite i sami reagovati nadležnim institucijama možete se obratiti na sljedeće mailove:— Sarajevo Open Centre (@soc_sarajevo) March 24, 2020
Agencija za zaštitu ličnih podataka u BiH: email@example.com i
Institucija ombudmsena za ljudska prava BiH: firstname.lastname@example.org https://t.co/WQJGYv3mt9
After the first reported Coronavirus (COVID-19) patients in Bosnia and Herzegovina, concerns have been raised over irresponsible reporting. For example, after a woman was reported to have tested positive for COVID-19 in tabloids, she was targeted with a barrage of threats on social media. In response, the government of Republika Srpska (Bosnia’s Serb-dominated Region) enacted a decree that introduces penalties for everyone who "spreads panic and publishes or transmits false news", regardless of whether through media or social networks.
Concerns for the safety of patients who may be infected with COVID-19 were heightened after some government institutions took the decision to publish personal information (e.g names, surnames, addresses, etc.) of individuals in self-isolation. Civil society raised concerns over the measures, which could inflame harmful speech online through labelling, stigmatising and even lynching of people suspected to have the virus. On 24th March 2020, The Sarajevo Open Center sent a letter to the Agency for Personal Data Protection and the Human Rights Ombudsman stating that this disclosure of personal information is a violation of the right to privacy, which could have dangerous consequences. The letter stated:
"We believe that the disclosure of this personal information has no legal basis that would remove their protection or restrict the right to privacy in relation to the health status of persons, and that it is a violation of the law on protection of personal data, a violation of the right to privacy as one of the basic human rights, and a violation of entity patient rights law."
The new measures come at a time when there are still pressing concerns for journalists. In particular, the professional integrity of critical journalists has been undermined hindering their work or preventing them from covering social issues. For example, on 28th June 2019 media workers were barred from reporting on the #PravdazaDavida protests despite showing their press accreditation passes.
Several protests have taken place in Bosnia and Herzegovina lately. Below are some emblematic examples:
- In order to mark Women’s Day, in the Bosnian capital of Sarajevo, the CURE (GIRLS) Foundation held an activist march, under the slogan “Bully, on your way!”. The march was peaceful and aimed to draw attention to the problems faced by women in Bosnia and Herzegovina face. Women in the southern city of Mostar also organised a march under the motto “Give us back our vote!”.
- 24th March 2020 marked the 2nd anniversary of the tragic death of young David Dragicevic, and a second year of active protesting by many citizens in Bosnia and Herzegovina demanding a thorough investigation and resolution of the controversial case. The informal group of concerned citizens turned into a movement called “Justice for David” whose have occupied the streets of Banja Luka for two years to call on authorities to take responsibility, to demand justice for the young man’s death and to give support to his family.