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HN: Czechs introduce bans, orders and fines, limit freedom

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Prague, May 10 (CTK) – The obsession with bans, orders and fines of all kinds has recently engulfed the Czech Republic and the mentality of the collective warden typical of the former communist regime is reappearing, Petr Honzejk writes in daily Hospodarske noviny (HN) yesterday.
It is noteworthy that the Czechs are voluntarily giving up the freedom which they gained only a few decades ago, he says.
It seems that a combination of weariness of freedom and the changes coming from the outside world elicited a panic reaction in the Czech Republic, as if the people believed that by giving up a part of their own freedom would be spared all that is coming, Honzejk writes.
Frankly speaking, this weariness of freedom and the feeling that the developments after 1989 brought more collisions than one is able to cope with concerns the whole Central Europe, Honzejk says.
The calls for a strong authority that would put everything right can be heard everywhere: Finance Minister Andrej Babis (ANO) who wants to run the country like a firm and Slovak right-wing extremist regional governor Marian Kotleba are different shoots growing from the same social disillusionment, Honzejk writes.
Babis and Kotleba offer various types of bans and orders that limit freedom. The political mainstream willy-nilly adapts to the demand for resolute solutions, motivated by its self-preservation instinct, he says.
The fines for violation of the rules of the road have increased in the Czech Republic, speaking with an official or police officer in a disrespectful manner would be punished, the freedom of speech is restricted, stricter electronic control of self-employed people has been introduced, municipalities ban people from sitting on the grass, Honzejk writes.
The idea of regulation and the subsequent repression as the best way to solve any problem is gradually penetrating everything, from the legislation and the executive to interpersonal relations, Honzejk writes.
The normal functioning based on a sense of belonging and respect is vanishing from the country, he adds.
The public support for stricter measures and rules is accompanied by the view that the sanctions would always affect others – high road fines would only be imposed on speed demons, only drug addicts would be punished for disrespect of public officials and drunkards living on welfare for sitting on grass, only cheats would be burdened with the electronic registration of sales, Honzejk writes.
Under the communist regime it was also true that if people watched their tongues and always remained loyal to the authorities, nothing bad would happen to them, but life was no good then. The more repression, the more abuse of the repressive means, he says.
Even if repression does not increase, there are practical problems to deal with. Either the repressive apparatus needs to be increased to check whether all the new orders and bans are not violated, or all the new regulations take effect only in theory. The latter option reminds of the developing countries where all the necessary laws have been passed, but nobody enforces them, except for cases when the laws are used as a pretext to punish critics, Honzejk writes.
Neither alternative seems good. Moreover, the Czech Republic might end up combining the disadvantages of both attitudes: there is more and more repression, but it is applied very selectively, Honzejk says.

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