Actually, I don’t even believe that, but it’s an opinion and, unlike people in Macedonia, I have a right to express it. As our Skopje correspondent, Ljubica Grozdanovska Dimishkovska, writes today, some people have been ordered to pay fines for insulting the prime minister, and under Macedonian law, that’s a legitimate punishment. Are you listening, Brussels?

While I think it would be great if the puerile and fevered rhetoric that comes from some corners in the United States about Barack Obama (comparing him to Hitler, for instance), would go away, I’m not about to suggest outlawing it.

What makes the Macedonian situation frightening is the defense of the law by a member of Gruevski’s political party.

“If someone insults the prime minister, he or she is insulting his own state. If the people don’t respect the prime minister and the state, we cannot expect other countries to respect Macedonia and its state officials,” Blagorodna Dulik said.

Rubbish. This really is Democracy and Human Rights 101, but, first, “L’Etat, c’est moi” went out a few hundred years ago. The prime minister and his or her country are different entities. Second, a country that is worthy of respect is one that ensures its people’s right to tear their leaders a new one.

Barbara Frye

Barbara Frye is Transitions Online’s managing editor. Email: barbara.frye@tol.org

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