The Helsinki Committee, a left wing NGO organization, filed criminal charges with the Interior Ministry alleging that academic and distinguished Macedonian literature expert Katica Kulafkova is responsible of hate speech. The Committee has frequently proposed similar charges against the broadly defined hate speech laws, almost exclusively against critics of the Zoran Zaev regime.

In Kulafkova’s case, she promptly deleted her Facebook and Twitter accounts after the threat of criminal action. The comment in question was a pun she tweeted the day before: “The price of our co-life is paid in our lives”. It was a clear reference to the massive increase in coronavirus cases and deaths which has been largely attributed to the disregard for social distancing rules in the Muslim community, mainly the dense Albanian areas of Skopje, which have by far the most new cases.

The difficult to translate word Kulafkova used – “sozivot: in Macedonian – refers to living together with a different ethnic community, in this case Macedonians and Albanians, and is frequently used in both a laudatory sense, but also as criticism to point to issues with one community. The facts of the comment were confirmed by both Macedonian and Albanian doctors today, against protests from Albanian journalists who demanded that the Macedonian community is also blamed for the spike in cases.

Even media outlets who reported on violations of restrictions in Skopje’s badly affected, majority Albanian Cair district, while the entire city was ordered in a grueling three days long lockdown as a result of the Second Wave of the epidemic, faced pressure to stop reporting on violations in Albanian majority areas. And now Kulafkova faces a police summon and potentially a criminal case because an activist organization found her to “discriminate and stigmatize” against the Albanian community, and condemned her for her lack of “empathy and solidarity”. Kulafkova quickly deleted the tweet, then issued an explanation, but as the left continued to whip up an online storm against her, she deleted her accounts.

The attack against Kulafkova comes at a time when Macedonia is gearing how best to respond to the on-going pressure from Bulgaria to give up on the uniqueness of the Macedonian language, as separate from the Bulgarian. Kulafkova, who was until recently an ally to the left wing groups and participated in the 2015/16 Colored Revolution that brougth the Zaev regime to power, but is also a critic of the concessions Zaev is making on the national identity issues, is likely going to be a key person in formulating the response.

Greetings to the ex comrades and freedom fighters – the eternal grant chasers. You were actually hurt with how Kulafkova criticized your treason, your injustices and your hybrid regime. Your arrows are not as poisonous as our love for Macedonia is great, said professor Ganka Cvetanova, a friend of academic Kulafkova, who was pressured into silence today.

The police and prosecutors have proven they’re very selective in their approach to reported “hate speech” crimes, as is the Helsinki Committee which often reports the violations on one side of the political divide but ignores them on the other. The close coordination between the ostensibly independent NGO sector and the Zaev regime was confirmed by Zaev himself recently, as a leaked recording showed him bragging that the NGO groups, “those funded by George Soros, they’re all mine”.

Under Zaev, the budget item for transfers to NGO groups grew from several million to 12 million EUR a year, which was seen as a form of pay-back to the groups that helped bring Zaev to power. With the economic fallout of the coronavirus epidemic, the Government proposed that half a million EUR is cut from the greatly expanded NGO budget. The Helsonki Committee joined other mostly left wing groups in demanding that the modest cut is reversed. In short order the Government caved and announced that its favorite groups will continue to receive the full budget.