- გაერთიანებული ერების ორგანიზაციის საქართველოს წარმომადგენლობა
- Commissioner Dunja Mijatović urges the Georgian Parliament to reject the draft law “On transparency of foreign influence”
- State Department Spokesperson (Mr. Ned Price) Response to Media Question on Georgia’s “Foreign Agent” Draft Law
- US Ambassador Kelly Degnan’s remarks to media on draft law about Foreign Agents (second question)
- US Ambassador Kelly Degnan’s Interview (last question about draft law on Foreign Agents) –
- The draft law on agents of foreign influence is Russian law – Kelly Degnan
- Department Press Briefing – March 2, 2023 – Ned Price, Department Spokesperson
- USAID საქართველოს პარლამენტს მოუწოდებს, უარი თქვას „აგენტების“ კანონპროექტებზე
- საქართველოში ევროკავშირის ელჩის, პაველ ჰერჩინსკის განცხადება
- Transparency International: Georgian parliament must reject proposed “foreign agents” law
- Liberal International: So-called “Foreign Agents’ Bill” serves Russia’s interests and weakens Georgia, insists LI Bureau
- ნორვეგიის საგარეო საქმეთა სამინისტრო
- ევროკავშირის უმაღლესი წარმომადგენლის საგარეო საქმეთა და უსაფრთხოების პოლიტიკის საკითხებში ჯოზეფ ბორელის პრეს-სპიკერის განცხადება „უცხოური გავლენის გამჭვირვალობის შესახებ“ კანონპროექტთან დაკავშირებით
- Civil Rights Defenders: “Foreign Agent Law” threatening civil society and independent media in Georgia
- The European Network of Election Monitoring Organizations (ENEMO) condemns draft law on “foreign agents” in Georgia
- Human Rights House Foundation: Georgian lawmakers must reject the draft “Transparency of Foreign Influence” bill
- International Press Institute: Georgian lawmakers should scrap plans for ‘foreign agent’ bill
- European Federation of Journalists: Georgia: New draft law requires internationally funded media outlets to register as “foreign agents”
გაერთიანებული ერების ორგანიზაციის საქართველოს წარმომადგენლობა
გაერთიანებული ერების ორგანიზაცია საქართველოში ღრმა შეშფოთებას გამოთქვამს „უცხოური გავლენის გამჭვირვალობის შესახებ“ კანონპროექტის გამო და მიიჩნევს, რომ აღნიშნული კანონპროექტის მიღება საფრთხეს უქმნის სამოქალაქო საზოგადოებისა და მედიის საქმიანობას და მათ არსებით წვლილს საქართველოს დემოკრატიის მშენებლობაში.
საქართველოში, სამოქალაქო საზოგადოების ორგანიზაციები არსებით მხარდაჭერას უწევენ საზოგადოების ყველაზე მოწყვლად და დაუცველ ჯგუფებს და მათ უფლებებს იცავენ. სამოქალაქო საზოგადოების საქმიანობის სტიგმატიზაციამ შესაძლოა, დაუცველი და მოწყვლადი ჯგუფები სათანადო დახმარების გარეშე დატოვოს, მათ შორის შეზღუდული შესაძლებლობის მქონე პირები, დევნილები, უმცირესობათა წარმომადგენლები, ხანდაზმულები, ქალები, ახალგაზრდები, ბავშვები, ოჯახში ძალადობის მსხვერპლები და სხვა ადამიანები, რომელთაც ეფექტიანი მხარდაჭერა და თანადგომა სჭირდება.
კანონპროექტი საფრთხეს უქმნის ისეთი უფლებების პატივისცემასა და დაცვას, როგორიცაა გაერთიანებისა და გამოხატვის თავისუფლება, საზოგადოებრივ საქმიანობაში მონაწილეობის უფლება, კონფიდენციალურობისა და პერსონალურ მონაცემთა დაცვის უფლება და დისკრიმინაციის აკრძალვა.
გაეროს ადამიანის უფლებათა საბჭოში საქართველოს ამჟამინდელი წევრობის გათვალისწინებით, მოვუწოდებთ საქართველოს პარლამენტს მოიძიოს სამართლებრივი მოსაზრებები აღნიშნულ კანონპროექტზე კომპეტენტური რეგიონული და საერთაშორისო ორგანოებისგან, გაითვალისწინოს უკვე არსებული მოსაზრებები მსგავსი კანონმდებლობის შესახებ და ჩაატაროს ფართო, ინკლუზიური და შინაარსიანი კონსულტაციები ყველა დაინტერესებულ მხარესთან, რომელზეც ამ კანონპროექტის მიღება შესაძლოა აისახოს.
მსგავსი კანონის მიღებამ შესაძლოა შეაფერხოს გაერთიანებული ერების ორგანიზაციის საქმიანობა მდგრადი განვითარების თანამშრომლობის ხელშეკრულების ფარგლებში, ქვეყნის სტრატეგია რომელსაც ჩვენ საქართველოს მთავრობასთან ერთად მოვაწერეთ ხელი. ოცდაათ წელზე მეტია, გაერო საქართველოს სანდო პარტნიორი და მოკავშირეა, რომელიც მხარს უჭერს საქართველოს განვითარებას ქვეყნის ეროვნული პრიორიტეტების შესაბამისად და დახმარებას უწევს ქართველ ხალხს ჩვენს ადგილობრივ პარტნიორებთან, მათ შორის სამოქალაქო საზოგადოებასა და მედიასთან ერთად.
მოვუწოდებთ საქართველოს ხელისუფლებას, გადადგას ყველა საჭირო ნაბიჯი, რათა თავიდან აიცილოს ისეთი ზომები, რომლებიც საფრთხეს შეუქმნის ქართულ დემოკრატიას და შეაფერხებს ან შეანელებს საქართველოს განვითარების მხარდაჭერას. https://www.undp.org/ka/georgia/news/un-statement-on-draft-law-on-transparency-of-foreign-influence?fbclid=IwAR1rM0NtEjQezawhR8Tdw_taajZMTov774Op__oEXoOWuZdYVJcQZPe7kBA
Commissioner Dunja Mijatović urges the Georgian Parliament to reject the draft law “On transparency of foreign influence”
I am writing to you in connection with the draft law “On transparency of foreign influence” (N 07-3/293/10, registered on 14 February 2023). If adopted, the law would provide for the registration of non-commercial legal entities and media outlets as “agents of foreign influence” if they receive some of their funding from abroad. The draft law appears to set a separate legal regime for such entities, subjecting them to additional reporting requirements, inspections and sanctions. I am concerned that such a legislative initiative presents a number of human rights issues in the light of the Council of Europe standards in the field of freedom of association and expression. In addition it could have a serious chilling effect on the work of civil society organisations active in the field of human rights, democracy and the rule of law in Georgia and I therefore call on the Parliament to reject this or any similar draft
While transparency may represent a legitimate concern, it should not be achieved to the detriment of the effective enjoyment by non-commercial organisations and media outlets of their rights and freedoms and of the exercise of their legitimate activities. Reporting requirements should be set up on an equal and non-biased basis regardless of the sources of income. Any interference in this field must respect the principles of necessity and proportionality as established by the case-law of the European Court of Human Rights. I would also like to draw your attention to the Committee of Minister’s Recommendation on the legal status of non-governmental organisations in Europe, establishing the right of NGOs to solicit and receive funding, including from foreign sources, for the exercise of their legitimate activities.
Against this background, I am concerned about the compatibility of the draft law “On transparency of foreign influence” with applicable human rights standards. I would like to underline in this context that the European Court of Human Rights has found a violation of Article 11 of the European Convention of Human Rights in connection with the legislation of the Russian Federation on so-called “foreign agents”.
In particular, the Court established that creating a special status and a legal regime for the organisations receiving foreign funding was not justified and that such initiatives placed a significant chilling effect on NGOs and their ability to perform their legitimate civil society functions.
I therefore encourage the members of the Parliament to unequivocally commit to fostering a diverse and vibrant civic participation in public affairs and a conducive environment for the functioning of civil society organisations and human rights defenders in Georgia.
I would be grateful if you could ensure that all members of the Parliament receive a copy of this letter and I stand ready to discuss these matters further with you in the framework of my constructive dialogue with Georgian authorities.
State Department Spokesperson (Mr. Ned Price) Response to Media Question on Georgia’s “Foreign Agent” Draft Law
We have deep concerns. We are aware of the draft legislation in the Georgian parliament. We are deeply concerned about its implications for freedom of speech and democracy in Georgia. We’ve expressed those deep concerns directly to our interlocutors in the Government of Georgia. The proposed law would stigmatize and silence independent voices and citizens of Georgia who are dedicated to building a better future for their own communities. We believe such a law could potentially undermine Georgia’s Euro-Atlantic integration.
To your question about erroneous comparisons to our laws, including FARA, these statements that the Georgian draft law is based on FARA – these statements are patently false. And in fact, this draft legislation appears to be based on similar Russian and Hungarian legislation, not on FARA or any other American legislation.
US Ambassador Kelly Degnan’s remarks to media on draft law about Foreign Agents (second question)
Question about the draft foreign agent laws
Ambassador Degnan: The draft legislation seems to be in search of a problem. Every day, there’s a new reason why this legislation needs to be introduced. First, it was transparency when there’s already plenty of transparency into how foreign assistance is supporting Georgians. The purpose of these laws is completely different from the law in the United States. These laws are aimed at blocking Georgians who are helping other Georgians. These are Georgians who are trying to address problems in their communities and provide services, whether it’s on climate change, or for business associations, or for young people, or people with disabilities, legal assistance to people who are in some cases in desperate need. These laws seem to be clearly in line with Russian law, which is aimed at stigmatizing civil society. It’s aimed at silencing dissenting voices. When you look at what’s going on in Russia right now, you see that Russian law has been very effective in silencing civil society and dissenting voices. Georgia has fought hard to build its democracy, to protect its freedoms. These laws will undermine that progress that Georgia has spent so many years building. That is why you hear concerns from the United Nations, from the European Union, from the United States, from many of Georgia’s long-standing friends, who’ve been working with Georgia for over 30 years, to help improve Georgia’s freedoms, protect Georgia’s freedoms, and build the institutions. So that is why people are very concerned. Georgia does not need this law. That is the question I think that needs to be answered. Why introduce the law?
US Ambassador Kelly Degnan’s Interview (last question about draft law on Foreign Agents)
Q: You have mentioned civil society and NGOs, and of course we have to ask about the draft law on foreign agents, which is perceived by many as a tool for the government to silence its opponents. Some of the authors of the law are claiming it is based on the U.S. law. What is your thinking about this draft?
Ambassador Degnan: I know this is existential for small media outlets like Publika and many others. Let’s be clear about what this law is not about. It is not about transparency. There is already ample transparency provided. Donors, like USAID and others have to provide detailed accounts of how our assistance funds are spent in Georgia every three months to Parliament. All the partners that we work with, the Georgian partners, have to provide detailed information to Georgia’s Revenue Service. So, this is not about transparency. That information is up on multiple websites. It’s also not the United States law, as the Senators made clear. That law targets law firms and lobbyists who are hired to represent the interests of foreign governments in the United States. That is not what this draft legislation is about.
This draft legislation would stop Georgians who are helping other Georgians work in the best interests of Georgia. This law would stop organizations that are trying to help Georgian communities, whether it’s an independent living center where families with persons with disabilities go to get support and assistance. It would stop legal aid that is helping people in desperate need in many communities around this country. It would stop tourism organizations that are trying to promote Georgia as a tourist de destination, which is so important to so many jobs. It would undermine the assistance that, for instance, we are providing to Georgian farmers. It would even undermine medical research that is supported by foreign donors like the United States and many European countries, business associations, farmers associations, environmental groups—the range of civil society organizations and partners that would be essentially stigmatized and labeled as spies, working for a foreign government, when they are here working for Georgia’s best interests. That is what concerns all of us about this legislation. It would be important to be clear about what this legislation is really aimed at. It looks like the Russian legislation that was aimed at stigmatizing and silencing civil society, silencing dissenting voices, and the Russian law was very effective at doing that.
If you look at civil society in Russia right now, it’s been silenced. Many of those organizations have had to leave Russia, rather than building a vibrant society and democracy, which is what the United States and our Georgian partners have been doing over the past years. This law would silence those voices, and would set back that work. This law would stand in the way of Georgia’s aspirations for European Union membership. I think that has been made very clear. It is incompatible with the basic principles of a modern democratic country. I hope the Parliament will step back and think about what they’re trying to accomplish here. They should consult with their partners and friends to better understand the impacts and the consequences of this law before going forward.
Q: How would the United States act to prevent this?
Ambassador Degnan: If the Parliament is interested in really understanding the consequences, I hope they will consult with their partners. This law will have such a significant impact on our ability to continue to provide the kind of assistance to those groups I mentioned: farmer’s associations, legal assistance, tourism, and people with disabilities. That’s just U.S. assistance, but every donor nation is going to be having to make the same kind of assessment of whether we can continue to provide that kind of support to Georgia.
In some cases, our support is working with local governments or national government to provide services that this government is not in a position to provide. The impacts are significant. I would hope that that would make the Parliament step back and reconsider introducing this law. When this law was introduced, it was presented as something aimed at increasing transparency. There is already ample transparency. If Parliament would take stock of how much information is already readily available to Parliament and to the public regarding the way foreign assistance is used here in Georgia, they would see that there is no problem with transparency. Perhaps there’s no need for this law.
The draft law on agents of foreign influence is Russian law – Kelly Degnan
The draft law on agents of foreign influence is Russian law. Such a statement made today the US Ambassador to Georgia.
“Obviously there’s a great deal of concern about this. Let’s be very clear about what this law is not about. It is not about transparency. There is already ample reporting on what USAID donors that have long supported Georgia do. Every three months we provide detailed reports, stacks of paper, to Parliament every three months detailing how our assistance is distributed here in Georgia. All our Georgian partners have to provide similarly detailed reports to Georgia’s Revenue Service.
There is plenty of transparency on how assistance is being used here in Georgia. If anybody cares to actually look, this is all up on multiple websites. This law is also not about the United States law. The United States law is targeted at lobbyists and law firms that are hired by foreign governments to represent the political interests of those foreign governments. That’s not what this draft law is about. This draft law is Russian law.
This is the law that is meant to stigmatize civil society. It’s meant to silence dissenting voices, different views. This law will stop Georgians who are helping Georgians improve their communities, their society. This law will stop, for instance, legal assistance to Georgians in need. This law will stop independent living centers that are working with local governments to provide services to families with people with disabilities who need support that the government is not able to provide right now.
This law would prevent medical research that is being co-funded by donors and Georgian universities. This law would stop tourism agencies, farmers associations; it would stop NGOs that are trying to work on climate change and the environment.
The list of those who would be impacted by this law is long. The real question here is: does Georgia even need this law when there’s already sufficient transparency and already deep cooperation and communication and trust between donors and those working to improve Georgia’s communities and society?”, – said Kelly Degnan.
Department Press Briefing – March 2, 2023
Ned Price, Department Spokesperson
QUESTION: Thank you. Ned, what are you learning about the ongoing protest in Georgia over a draft law on so-called foreign agents that the ruling party – Georgian Dream – initiated and adopted, actually, a few hours ago at the first hearing in the Parliament of Georgia? So the initiator of this law, they are arguing that this is similar to U.S. law FARA. So what do you think this leaves the 30-plus years of building democracy in Georgia by the U.S.?
MR PRICE: Well, this is something that we’ve spoken to over the past couple days. We have expressed our consistent concern about this. The law is still going through the process within the Georgian system. But nevertheless, we remain deeply troubled by the introduced foreign agents law, precisely because it would stigmatize and silence independent voices and citizens of Georgia who are dedicated to building a better country for their fellow citizens, for their communities. We are deeply concerned about the potential implications of this law for freedom of speech and democracy in Georgia.
Our point has been a simple one, and we’ve made this point in public but we’ve also conveyed it in private. Anyone voting for this draft legislation would be responsible for potentially jeopardizing Georgia’s Euro-Atlantic future. A law like this is not consistent with the aspirations that the Georgian people have expressed over the course of decades now, the future they have set out for themselves, and the future that we, as the United States, are determined to continue to be a partner to help them achieve.
It’s not just the United States expressing these reservations. Several other partner countries, the EU, the UN, and Georgian civil society groups have also issued strong statements of concern about this draft legislation.
Now, there has been a lot of propaganda about this law. You mentioned one of these untruths: the idea that this law was based on our Foreign Agents Registration Act, or FARA. Our Foreign Agents Registration Act requires people who are agents of foreign governments to register as such. Our law does not affect NGO operations or funding sources. We can provide you with additional details on FARA if that would be of use. But FARA is very narrow; it is tailored to apply only to those agents of foreign government. This is something very different, and that’s why we’re quite concerned about it.
USAID საქართველოს პარლამენტს მოუწოდებს, უარი თქვას „აგენტების“ კანონპროექტებზე
აშშ-ის საერთაშორისო განვითარების სააგენტო USAID-ის ხელმძღვანელი სამანტა პაუერი მოუწოდებს საქართველოს პარლამენტს, უარი თქვას უცხოური აგენტების შესახებ კანონპროექტებზე.
„საქართველოს მიერ შემოთავაზებული უცხოური აგენტების კანონები სერიოზულ საფრთხეს უქმნის საქართველოს ევროატლანტიკურ მომავალს და ქართველების შესაძლებლობას, განახორციელონ საკუთარი ეკონომიკური, სოციალური და სხვა მისწრაფებები“, — აცხადებს სამანტა პაუერი.
საქართველოს საპარლამენტო უმრავლესობა გეგმავს კანონპროექტის მიღებას, რომლის ანალოგის დამტკიცების შედეგად რუსეთში არაერთი არასამთავრობო ორგანიზაცია ჯერ „უცხოურ აგენტად“ გამოაცხადეს, შემდეგ კი სრულად აკრძალეს. „უცხოური აგენტების“ შესახებ კანონით ქვეყანაში ებრძვიან მედიასაც.
ამჟამად უმრავლესობის წევრებს „უცხოური გავლენის აგენტების“ შესახებ ორი კანონპროექტი აქვს ინიცირებული: 1. როგორც თავად ამბობენ, აშშ-ში მოქმედი „უცხოური აგენტების რეგისტრაციის აქტის“ [FARA] “უფრო შერბილებულ” ვერსია და 2. “ალტერნატივის სახით ამერიკული კანონის ანალოგი”.
საქართველოში მსგავსი კანონის მიღებას აკრიტიკებენ როგორც ქვეყნის შიგნით, ასევე, მისი არმიღებისკენ ხელისუფლებას მოუწოდებენ დასავლელი პარტნიორებიც, მათ შორის, აშშ, ევროკავშირი, გაერო, ევროპის საბჭო.
ევროკავშირის საგარეო სამსახური „უცხოეთის გავლენის აგენტების“ კანონპროექტთან დაკავშირებით აცხადებს, რომ ის ეწინააღმდეგება 12-პუნქტიან რეკომენდაციებს, რომელიც საქართველომ უნდა შეასრულოს კანდიდატის სტატუსის მისაღებად.
საქართველოში ევროკავშირის ელჩის, პაველ ჰერჩინსკის განცხადება
პარლამენტის თავმჯდომარესთან მარტივი დისკუსია არ გვქონდა. ამის შესახებ საქართველოში ევროკავშირის ელჩმა პაველ ჰერჩინსკიმ პარლამენტის თავმჯდომარე შალვა პაპუაშვილთა გამართული შეხვედრის შემდეგ ჟურნალისტებთან საუბარში განაცხადა.
“ამ წამს დავასრულეთ ძალიან მნიშვნელოვანი შეხვედრა. მე თან მახლდნენ ევროკავშირის წევრი ქვეყნების ყველა ელჩი, ვინც თბილისში მდებარეობს. ჩვენ პარლამენტის თავმჯდომარის მიერ ვიყავით დაპატიჟებული, რათა აზრები გაგვეცვალა “უცხოური აგენტების” შესახებ ინიციატივაზე…
აზრების ძალიან გულწრფელი, ღია გაცვლა გვქონდა თავმჯდომარესთან და პარლამენტის საგარეო ურთიერთობათა კომიტეტის ორ თავმჯდომარესთან, დეტალებში ღრმად შესვლით.
მარტივი დისკუსია არ იყო. ჩვენი მხრიდან ძალიან მკაფიოდ განვაცხადეთ, რომ ეს ინიციატივა ევროკავშირის ნორმებსა და ღირებულებებს არ შეესაბამება და კიდევ ერთხელ ვთქვით, რომ ეს ინიციატივა 12-დან როგორც მინიმუმ 2 პუნქტს ეწინააღმდეგება, რომლებიც საქართველოს წინა წლის ივნისში გადაეცა. თავმჯდომარის მხრიდან ამ კანონის მიღების საჭიროების შესახებ არგუმენტები მოვისმინეთ.
საუბარი გაგრძელდება. როგორც მესმის, ეს კანონპროექტიც კი არ არის, მხოლოდ ინიციატივაა და, რა თქმა უნდა, ჩვენი მხრივ, ძალიან ახლოდან დავაკვირდებით როგორ განვითარდება ეს ინიციატივა და იმედი გვაქვს, რომ ეს ინიციატივა კანონად არ იქცევა”, – თქვა ჰერჩინსკიმ.
Georgian parliament must reject proposed “foreign agents” law
Transparency International is alarmed by and calls against the adoption of a proposed new law that would require non-profit organisations receiving foreign funding to register as “foreign agents” in Georgia. If approved, the legislation would have a serious negative impact on the already shrinking space for civil society and independent media in the country. It would also undermine future progress against corruption in Georgia.
The draft law “On the Transparency of Foreign Influence” was recently presented by a group of parliamentarians aligned with the ruling party, who have stated the need to “uncover” the agents of foreign influence in the country. It mirrors the oppressive legislation adopted in Russia in 2012 and expanded in 2022, which continues to be strongly condemned by the international community. Over 350 non-governmental organisations – including Transparency International Georgia – have denounced the proposed law, highlighting how its passage would hurt not only them but the vulnerable populations that they serve.
Despite wide protest, leaders from the ruling party have now voiced their support for the bill, continuing to retaliate against independent actors. Most recently, upon the release of Transparency International’s 2022 Corruption Perceptions Index (CPI), government representatives attacked our Georgian chapter for speaking out against high-level corruption and state capture. Transparency International highlighted the same concerns when listing Georgia as a country to watch on the 2022 CPI.
The proposal to label civil society and media organisations receiving foreign funding as “foreign agents” is also at odds with the Georgian government’s stated EU aspirations. Decisive action against high-level corruption, strengthening protections for journalists and enabling civil society’s meaningful participation in decision-making are among the conditions Georgia needs to meet to achieve EU candidacy.
Delia Ferreira Rubio, chair of Transparency International, said:
“A vibrant civil society is one of Georgia’s greatest assets. The proposed legislation is not about transparency but about labelling and demonising independent civil society. If passed, it will also derail future progress in a wide range of areas, including anti-corruption.”
So-called “Foreign Agents’ Bill” serves Russia’s interests and weakens Georgia, insists LI Bureau
The bureau of Liberal International is deeply concerned by the news of legislation to aimed at punishing civil society organisations in receipt of international support in Georgia. Set to be tabled before the parliament, if successful the bill will weaken the country’s international standing, embolden anti-democrats, and leaving it with more in common with Russia than with Europe. We firmly believe that this is not the future in freedom and respect for the fundamental human rights that most Georgians want.
Upon learning the bill is supported in principle by the governing Georgian Dream government, the Liberal International bureau expressed their alarm: ‘The international community, particularly the European Union, must see this this bill as red line. That the government has decided to prioritise targeting Georgians working to make a positive difference to the future of their country rather than Putin’s Russia which seeks to expand its malign influence across Georgia’s lands is as incomprehensible as it is disgraceful.
“A thriving civil society is essential to a robust democracy. We call on members of parliament from across the political spectrum to denounce this bill in the strongest terms, to vote it down, to unite in support of peace, stability, and Georgia’s Euro-Atlantic future. This bill is a cynical attempt by the Georgian Dream to weaken accountability and strengthen their grip on power ahead of parliamentary elections in 2024.”
Liberal International counts two member parties from Georgia, The Republican Party (Full member) and Girchi More Freedom (Observer member).
ნორვეგიის საგარეო საქმეთა სამინისტრო
შემაშფოთებელია საქართველოს კანონპროექტი, რომელიც საზოგადოებრივ ორგანიზაციებს „უცხოურ აგენტებად“ განსაზღვრავს. ეს ეწინააღმდეგება ქართველი ხალხის მტკიცე ევროპულ მისწრაფებებსა და ადამიანის უფლებების საერთაშორისო ვალდებულებებს. [კანონპროექტი] უარყოფითად იმოქმედებეს ნორვეგია-საქართველოს თანამშრომლობაზე. ნორვეგია მოუწოდებს კანონმდებლებს იმოქმედონ საქართველოს დემოკრატიული ინტერესების მიხედვით.
ევროკავშირის უმაღლესი წარმომადგენლის საგარეო საქმეთა და უსაფრთხოების პოლიტიკის საკითხებში ჯოზეფ ბორელის პრეს-სპიკერის განცხადება „უცხოური გავლენის გამჭვირვალობის შესახებ“ კანონპროექტთან დაკავშირებით
შემოთავაზებული კანონპროექტი „უცხოური გავლენის გამჭვირვალობის შესახებ“ სერიოზულ შეშფოთებას იწვევს. სამოქალაქო საზოგადოების ორგანიზაციებისთვის ხელსაყრელი გარემოს შექმნა და შენარჩუნება და ასევე მედიის თავისუფლების უზრუნველყოფა დემოკრატიის საფუძველს წარმოადგენს. ის ასევე არსებითია ევროკავშირში გაწევრიანების პროცესისთვის და არის 12 პრიორიტეტის ნაწილი, კერძოდ #7 პრიორიტეტისა, მედიის თავისუფლებასთან დაკავშირებით და #10 პრიორიტეტისა, რომელიც სამოქალაქო საზოგადოების ჩართულობას ეხება.
ევროკავშირი მხარს უჭერს საქართველოს ძალისხმევას რეფორმების განხორციელების კუთხით, რაც ეხმაურება ქვეყნის მისწრაფებებს განვითარებასა და ევროკავშირში გაწევრიანებასთან დაკავშირებით, როგორც ეს საქართველოს კონსტიტუციაში არის გაცხადებული.
კანონპროექტის მიღება შეუთავსებელი იქნება ევროკავშირის ნორმებთან და ღირებულებებთან.
მოვუწოდებთ საქართველოს პოლიტიკურ ლიდერებს მიიღონ და განახორციელონ რეფორმები, რომლებიც შეესაბამება ევროკავშირში გაწევრიანების გაცხადებულ მიზანს, რომელსაც საქართველოს მოქალაქეების დიდი უმრავლესობა უჭერს მხარს.
Civil Rights Defenders
“Foreign Agent Law” threatening civil society and independent media in Georgia
Despite protests from Georgian independent media and civil society, the Georgian parliament has registered a so-called “Foreign Agent” bill. The legislation is threatening the work of civil society organisations and media in the country. Civil Rights Defenders expresses its deep concern about the bill that, if approved, will undermine democracy and civil society in the country.
The proposed law would make all non-governmental organisations and media outlets that receive more than twenty percent of their funding from abroad register as ‘agents of foreign influence’ in a separate registry. The draft law would also authorise the Ministry of Justice to investigate and monitor organisations they deem to be agents of foreign influence. This might also include requesting access to personal data. The proposed law risks increasing the government’s control over media and civil society and can be used as a tool to crack down on dissent in the country.
Georgian civil society and independent media have a crucial role for the future of Georgia, its democratic development, and the upholding of human rights. We urge the members of the Parliament of Georgia to respect the freedom of association and expression in the country and not adopt the proposed legislation.
The European Network of Election Monitoring Organizations (ENEMO)
ENEMO condemns draft law on “foreign agents” in Georgia
The European Network of Election Monitoring Organizations (ENEMO) expresses its deepest concerns regarding initiating a draft law on “foreign agents” by Members of Parliament in Georgia.
The draft law plans for any civil or media organization which receives over 20 percent of its income from abroad to be obligated to register on a “Registry of Foreign Influence Agents” or face sanctions.
ENEMO joins other international and domestic voices in condemning such draft legislation, which would pave the way for undue pressure on Georgian civil society organizations, media, and human rights activists. This can substantially worsen the state of democracy in the country and the rights of citizens by hindering freedom of speech, stifling independent monitors, and infringing fundamental human and political rights.
ENEMO strongly stands against such provisions and the terminology itself – “foreign influence agents” – which implies the notion of “espionage” and is both stigmatizing and misleading. It essentially labels organizations and individuals as engaging in “political activities” with foreign support with an alleged aim to damage the country’s interests. Additionally, it opens the door to varying interpretations of vague and broad terminology, and constitutes a serious violation of basic human rights, including freedom of expression and freedom of association.
Other countries, such as the Russian Federation and several CIS countries, have used similar laws as an instrument to crackdown on independent voices, election observers, media representatives, civil society activists, and human rights defenders. The legislation passed in the Russian Federation, for instance, was extended to include not only nonprofit organizations, but also media outlets, independent journalists, non-partisan domestic and international election observers, and civil society more broadly. This has opened the door to further stigmatization, pressure on NGOs, criminalization, and even prosecution of activists in the country.
ENEMO calls upon the Parliament of Georgia to not adopt this legislation, which violates fundamental rights and freedoms. Civil and political rights are vital for an effective democracy. Societies should be free from undue pressure or control over the activities and existence of associations and the participation of individuals in civic life.
The European Network of Election Monitoring Organizations (ENEMO) is an international network of independent non-partisan CSOs that supports democratic development and citizen’s participation in political processes. It is composed of 22 leading domestic monitoring organizations from 18 countries of Central and Eastern Europe and Central Asia, including three European Union countries. ENEMO was founded on September 29, 2001 in Croatia. All ENEMO members are committed to the principles of non- partisanship, impartiality, transparency, objectiveness and accuracy. ENEMO and its members respect and promote international standards for free and transparent elections, as well as ways and mechanisms for democratic development, engagement and empowerment of citizens.
Human Rights House Foundation
Georgian lawmakers must reject the draft “Transparency of Foreign Influence” bill
We, the undersigned members of the network of Human Rights Houses, express our concern over the Georgian Parliament’s draft “Transparency of Foreign Influence” bill and call on lawmakers to reject it and ensure a safe and enabling environment for human rights defenders and civil society.
In mid-February, the People’s Power party, members of the majority coalition in Parliament, introduced the foreign influence bill (https://jam-news.net/law-on-foreign-agents/). If approved, the bill would require media and civil society organisations that receive more than 20% of its funding from foreign entities to register as “agents of foreign influence” or face fines. The bill defines “foreign entities” as foreign governments, persons who are not citizens of Georgia, legal entities or any kind of organisation not established in Georgia according to Georgian law, or an organisation established according to international law such as a United Nations agency. Under the draft legislation, the Ministry of Justice would be authorised to investigate organisations believed to be so-called “agents of foreign influence”.
This draft bill is another example of legislation designed to both restrict the ability of civil society to raise funds as well as bring into question the role and place of civil society in the public consciousness. It highlights the shrinking space for civil society in Eastern Europe, the Western Balkans, and the Caucasus. It also underscores alarming trends in Georgia attacking fundamental freedoms, including the freedom of association.
States limiting civil society access to foreign resources is not a new phenomenon. In 2012, Russia enacted the first of many “foreign agents” laws designed to eventually crush independent civil society and media. In June 2017, Hungary passed a law forcing any organisation receiving funding from abroad to register as an “organisation receiving foreign funds” and to display this label on all publications or face sanctions. .
Legislative efforts designed to label civil society organisations as foreign agents or agents of foreign influence also seek to limit civil society’s ability to operate freely, and express dissenting or opposing views. Equally importantly, they seek to paint civil society and the media as against the national interests. In short, such legislation deliberately undercuts the very role and nature of independent civil society.
Independent civil society has played a critical role in Georgia’s development. Human rights organisations give voice to marginalised and vulnerable populations, support the Georgian government in upholding its international human rights obligations, and support accountability efforts for violators of human rights. Efforts to restrict human rights organisations funding or call into question their legitimacy should be roundly rejected.
In Georgia, this law, which evokes comparison with similar legislation in Russia, would have a detrimental impact on independent civil society as well as foreign civil society organisations operating in exile in Georgia. Georgia hosts many human rights defenders and activists from across the region and serves as a hub for human rights initiatives and defenders from a number of countries. The proposed bill, limiting freedom of association and expression, would limit their ability to conduct their legitimate human rights work.
Since its introduction in mid-February, the “transparency of foreign influence” bill has been roundly criticised by Georgian and international stakeholders. The administration of the President of Georgia reacted to the draft law and stated that “the President of Georgia cannot support such legislation. . . that brings us closer to the flawed Russian model and not to the European model” (https://civil.ge/archives/526361 ). Georgia’s Public Defender’s Office stated that the bill “does not comply with international or domestic human rights standards” (https://www.ombudsman.ge/eng/akhali-ambebi/sakartvelos-sakhalkho-damtsvelis-aparatis-gantskhadeba-utskhouri-gavlenis-gamchvirvalobis-shesakheb-sakartvelos-kanonproekts-taobaze). Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) Rapporteurs on Georgia raised “concerns with regard to its compatibility with democratic and Human Rights standards” (https://civil.ge/archives/525959).
The draft law raises serious questions about its compatibility with the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR), to which Georgia is a signatory, as well as Georgia’s Constitution. A European Court of Human Rights ruling found a similar law of the Russian Federation to be in violation of the Convention’s Article 11 on Freedom of Assembly & Association (https://hudoc.echr.coe.int/eng?i=002-13687). It also noted that the law had a significant chilling effect on the work of civil society organisations domestically. In addition, Georgia’s constitution obligates the authorities to seek integration with European and Euro-Atlantic structures and institutions. Approving a law which would likely be found in contravention of the ECHR would run the risk of being in contrast to Georgian Constitutional obligations (Article 78, Constitutions of Georgia https://matsne.gov.ge/ka/document/view/30346?publication=36 ).
Georgia has followed a long and sometimes painful path as it has sought to strengthen its democracy and European integration. The draft “foreign influence” bill risks rolling back critical achievements that have been made in recent years, most notably in the enabling environment for civil society and human rights defenders. Georgian authorities must respect the independent and critical role of civil society and reject any efforts to stifle civil society’s voice or role.
The “transparency of foreign influence” bill must be rejected by Georgian lawmakers. At the same time, we call on Georgian authorities to:
- Ensure safe and enabling environment for civil society;
- Publicly support and promote the important role of Human Rights Defenders in a democratic society;
- Provide support to the efforts of free and critical media outlets and promote freedom of expression and independence of media by facilitating an environment that fosters open and inclusive public discourse.
International Press Institute
Georgian lawmakers should scrap plans for ‘foreign agent’ bill
The International Press Institute (IPI) calls on Georgian MPs to scrap plans for “foreign agent” legislation that echoes similar laws in authoritarian states, such as that in neighboring Russia. While the bill’s authors have claimed that the law would be based on “principles of openness and transparency”, the measures risk being used as a weapon to discredit media and non-governmental organizations.
The draft law on “foreign agents” was proposed by a group of MPs aligned with Georgia’s ruling party who refer to themselves as the People’s Power movement. The group is an offshoot of the Georgian Dream coalition in power since 2012. It propagates claims of a conspiracy allegedly aiming to bring down the Georgian government to enact rule of law reforms necessary for further integration with the European Union.
The bill, officially titled “On the Transparency of Foreign Influence”, has been put forward as an attempt to “uncover” organizations allegedly part of this “conspiracy”. It has also been endorsed by some members of the Georgian Dream coalition. Speaker of Parliament Shalva Papuashvili, a member of Georgian Dream, has not explicitly stated support for the initiative but says it should be open to discussion. The chair of Georgian Dream, Irakli Kobakhidze, has expressed support for the bill. In the same vein, Mikheil Sarjveladze, head of the Georgian parliament’s human rights committee endorsed the initiative, claiming that society is entitled to more transparency over the funding of media and civil society organizations.
“IPI is deeply alarmed that Georgian lawmakers are considering taking a page out of Russia’s authoritarian playbook by introducing so-called ‘foreign agent’ legislation,” IPI Deputy Director Scott Griffen said. “Putin’s foreign agent law has been one of the Kremlin’s most potent weapons to crush press freedom and freedom of expression, among other rights, in Russia. Such legislation has absolutely no business in a country that aspires to join the European Union and which subscribes to principles of democratic governance.”
“While proponents may claim this is about transparency, we fear that this law could in fact be used to discredit critical media by smearing them as agents of foreign influence and therefore a threat to Georgian society and security. It would also give the state a powerful tool to intimidate dissenting voices, including journalists. Ultimately, it risks depriving the Georgian public of their right to diverse sources of news and information.”
“We call on Georgian MPs to drop this bill and to instead focus on ensuring a safe and free environment for independent media to do their jobs.”
‘Agents’ of foreign powers
According to a draft obtained by OC Media, the law would introduce the term “agent of foreign influence” into Georgian legislation. An “agent” would be defined as any non-profit organization, or any broadcaster, online media outlet, or publishing house receiving at least 20 percent of its non-advertising revenue from “foreign powers”. A “foreign power” would include institutions of foreign states, individual citizens of foreign countries, legal entities not located in Georgia, and organizations acting under the laws of foreign states or under international law.
“Agents of foreign influence” would need to register with the Georgian National Agency of Public Registry and then submit yearly declarations on the sources of their revenues. All information provided to state institutions in this process would be made public. Failure to register as an “agent of foreign influence” would be an administrative offense, punishable by fines of up to 25.000 GEL (8800 euros).
In parallel, the Ministry of Justice would receive the right to monitor organizations suspected of receiving foreign financing, as well as to request information on this funding from other state institutions. Private individuals would also receive the right to report an organization suspected of being an “agent of foreign influence”.
Politicians representing People’s Power argue that the law is necessary as Georgia allegedly lacks transparency with regards to the financing of civil society groups and media. They claim that these organizations are responsible for political polarization and radicalization in the country. Notably, People’s Power deputies say that they left Georgian Dream with the party’s support to be able to “speak openly” about a supposed Western conspiracy to drag Georgia into war with Russia, allegedly conducted through covert campaigns in internationally sponsored media and nonprofits. The topic remains sensitive in Georgia, which remains under partial occupation by Russian forces, who support separatist, internationally unrecognized governments in Abkhazia and Tskhinvali region controlling approximately 20 percent of the country’s territory.
In response to the bill introduced by People’s Power, the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) expressed concern on Twitter regarding its alignment with democratic and human rights principles. Additionally, PACE urged Georgian MPs not to support the bill.
The Netherlands Helsinki Committee, along with 40 other non-governmental organizations, urged the government to refrain from passing the proposed legislation. The bill is “controlling and restricting”, and replicates the practice of authoritarian states, according to the statement.
Growing threats to press freedom and journalist safety
In recent years, press freedom in Georgia has suffered considerable setbacks. This decline became especially visible in July 2021, when more than 50 media workers were subject to large-scale violence while covering anti-Pride protests in Georgia’s capital, Tbilisi, followed by the death of cameraman Aleksandre Lashkarava. The imprisonment of the director of the popular TV channel Mtavari Arkhi, Nika Gvaramia, in May 2022, was another sign of this decline. Gvaramia was sentenced to three-and-a-half years in prison for corruption in what was widely considered a politically motivated trial.
As for “foreign agent” legislation itself, the danger of such regulations is best showcased by the situation in Russia, where repressive laws on the topic were adopted immediately after Vladimir Putin’s return to the presidential office in 2012. Over the next decade, the legislation was progressively tightened to become ever-more repressive: if initially it only targeted foreign-funded non-profit organizations, the Russian criminal and administrative offenses codes now foresee fines for any organization, person, or “unregistered social group” receiving any amount of foreign funds or even simply declared to be “under foreign influence” by the Ministry of Justice. Russia’s never-ending fall into increasing repression with the use of “foreign agent” laws shows just how dangerous of a precedent such a law would set in Georgia if voted in parliament.
No EU member state has passed such legislation, though in 2017 Hungary passed a law which applied to foreign-funded organizations and NGOs but excluded the press, which was later found to violate EU law by the Court of Justice of the European Union. Plans by a far-right party in Bulgaria to draft a similar ‘foreign agent’ bill were met with international condemnation and were ultimately not brought to parliament.
European Federation of Journalists
Georgia: New draft law requires internationally funded media outlets to register as “foreign agents”
A draft law to require entities receiving money from abroad to register as “agents of foreign influence” was introduced by the People’s Power party to the Georgian Parliament on 20 February 2023. The European Federation of Journalists (EFJ) joined its affiliate, the Independent Association of Georgian Journalists (IAGJ), in criticising the proposed law and calling for its withdrawal.
In the name of “transparency”, the draft law would require organizations receiving over 20% of their income from a ‘foreign power’ to register on a ‘Foreign Influence Agents Registry’, or face fines of up to ₾25,000 (8,900€). It would affect any broadcaster, newspaper, or Georgian-language online media platform as well as any non-governmental organization registered in Georgia. The draft law is similar to the foreign agent law first adopted by Russia in 2012, which was then extended in 2019 to individuals, including journalists.
Yesterday, more than 300 non-governmental organizations and media outlets issued a joint statement opposing the initiative, stating that “Russian law is certainly not the type of governance that Georgian citizens aspire to have in our country”.
Georgia’s Public Defender (Ombudsman) also took a stand against the draft law, stating that it doesn’t comply with international or national human rights standards and is incompatible with the basic principles of a modern democratic state.
IAGJ President Zviad Pochkhua said: “This bill aims to limit the voice of independent media and non-governmental organizations in Georgia. We are very concerned that some government leaders and members of the parliamentary majority have expressed their support for the bill, trying to create a false perception of its nature and objectives.”
He added: “The draft law on foreign agents is proposed in the context of Russia’s growing influence in Georgia and the ongoing occupation of Georgian territories, which adds further concerns about the purpose of this law.
EFJ President Maja Sever also expressed concern about the impact of such a law on civil liberties and media freedom in Georgia: “It is a bad signal for Georgian media and civil society organizations. Under the guise of transparency, this law would put financial and administrative pressure on those who contribute to the democratic life of Georgian society, while it is perfectly legal to receive money from abroad. In view of the many criticisms, we hope that it will be withdrawn quickly.”