Czech Republic wants punishment for lèse-majesté
A group of MPs in the Czech parliament have proposed the reintroduction of lèse-majesté laws in what many suspect is a move mainly aimed at suppressing criticism of President Miloš Zeman on social media. The Czech media lambaste the initiative and point to the timing, which coincides with the anniversary of the Velvet Revolution on November 17.
Communist mentality lives on
It was the communist regime that feared criticism, writes Hospodářské noviny, adding that this mindset still prevails in the Czech Republic today:
“This mentality that differentiated between 'us' and 'them' was just waiting to be enshrined in the law once more. Now it seems the time for this has come. The former head of state Václav Havel, who had the corresponding paragraphs revoked in the 1990s, knew that the free expression of criticism is one of the cornerstones of a functioning, free society. The argument that countries like the Netherlands still have such a paragraph doesn't hold water. … The monarch there is not an active politician, he or she doesn't decide what course the country takes. The parliamentarians' arguments are, with all due respect, dumb (we can still write that with impunity for the time being, thank you very much!).”
MPs have forgotten the past
Twenty-seven years ago today the Czechs won their right to freedom of expression, Lidové noviny points out:
“Why are we receiving this 'gift' consisting in the destruction of freedom of expression on this of all dates? Unbelievable. ... The 64 MPs must have lived in another country before the revolution. Clearly they didn't experience communism and the laws its rulers twisted to their own advantage. And this is precisely what is at issue today. True, we don't have to worry about hundreds of people being thrown into prison for calling Zeman an ass. But just the feeling that in this or that specific case such a thing could happen is bad enough. We must defend ourselves against it, in the name of November 17!”