Human Rights Worsened in Central, Southeast Europe, in Pandemic – Amnesty

The COVID-19 pandemic saw an increase in state control over the judiciary and media and further endangered minorities that already suffer from discrimination in Central and Southeast Europe, rights watchdog Amnesty International said in its annual report published on Monday.

Amnesty Secretary General Agnes Callamard said in a press release: "COVID-19 has brutally exposed and deepened inequality both within and between countries, and highlighted the staggering disregard our leaders have for our shared humanity."

The report, "The State of the World's Human Rights", which covers 149 countries, says governments "took insufficient measures to protect journalists and whistle-blowers, including health workers, at times targeting those who criticized government responses to COVID-19".

This occurred in multiple countries, among them Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Hungary, Kosovo, Poland, Serbia and Turkey.

Governments in countries such as Bosnia, Hungary, Poland, Romania, Russia, Serbia and Turkey also "misused existing and new legislation to curtail freedom of expression".

Most Central European and SEE countries struggled with media freedom, and investigative journalists in Kosovo, including those from BIRN, faced threats, slurs and attacks, the report recalled.

"In June, the former Minister of European Integration opened a defamation suit against Jeta Xharra, director of the Balkan Investigative Reporting Network, and Prishtina Insight. In July, Xharra was threatened by another former minister, and in September, former Prime Minister Ramush Haradinaj called journalists 'mercenaries'," the report noted.

In North Macedonia, "employers failed to implement COVID-19- related measures to assist working parents,...

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