Statement of the “Civic Solidarity” Platform on the situation in Georgia in relation to the draft law "On Transparency of Foreign Influence"

In April 2024, the Georgian ruling party "Georgian Dream" initiated the Parliament's reconsideration of the draft law "On the Transparency of Foreign Influence", which had been withdrawn from discussion last year as a result of mass popular protests. On May 1, 2024, the bill was passed in the second reading, despite thousands of Georgians protesting on the streets and a negative reaction from representatives of the European Union, the United States, and other countries, as well as of the Council of Europe. The final vote may take place within two weeks of the second reading. Georgian President Salome Zurabishvili has declared her readiness to veto the law, but MPs of the ruling party have enough votes to override the veto.

The draft law "On the Transparency of Foreign Influence" is very close in its aims and content to the Russian law on “foreign agents”, which has become an important tool for the Russian regime to crack down on its critics. It is not without reason that the protests in Georgia are being held under the slogan: "No to the Russian law!". The bill proposed by the “Georgian Dream” would oblige non-governmental organizations and media outlets with more than 20% of their annual income from foreign funding to be registered as “an organization that pursues the interests of foreign forces". Such organizations would have to fill out year-end financial declarations under a threat of fines, and these declarations would become public. The Ministry of Justice of Georgia would be authorized to conduct monitoring at any time in order to identify "organizations pursuing interests of foreign forces", and officials of the Ministry of Justice would be able to obtain virtually any information, including personal data. The boundaries of this "monitoring" are not clearly defined, which would make it possible to collect and use any information about civil society organizations, the media, and the beneficiaries of these organizations. 

Essentially, the Georgian authorities only made a single change to the bill that failed last year. They changed the term "agents of foreign influence" to " pursuers of the interests of foreign power".

The adoption of the law "On Transparency of Foreign Influence" would lead to the stigmatization of Georgia's civil society and the suppression of independent information resources. Most of Georgia's non-governmental organizations currently depend on international support as there is no funding for their important work within the country. As a result of the adoption of this law, they would either become controlled by the authorities or cease their activities, and this will affect the plight of the entire Georgian society. Provisions of the draft law are clearly incompatible with Georgia’s human rights obligations in the United Nations and  the Council of Europe and its OSCE commitments in the field of freedom of association and expression. If adopted, the law will have a chilling effect on the work of media outlets and civil society organisations, including those working on human rights, democracy and the rule of law.

Adoption of this law would block Georgia's path to the European Union, contrary to the aspirations of the Georgian people, and will therefore deprive the country of its most significant political and economic opportunity since the end of the Soviet Union.

The Civic Solidarity Platform unites non-governmental organizations seeking promoting and defending human rights in Europe, Eurasia, and North America, and serves as a basis on which activists and NGOs can build alliances, strengthen mutual support and solidarity, and expand their influence at the national and international levels. The Platform member organizations that have signed this appeal express their unwavering solidarity with Georgian civil society, support peaceful protests against the adoption of the draft law "On the Transparency of Foreign Influence" and categorically condemn attempts to suppress peaceful protests by force.

We are confident of the negative impact the adoption of this bill would cause on civil society, independent media and the state of human rights in Georgia, and call on international institutions, democratic states, human rights organizations and media  of all countries to do everything in their power to prevent the entry of the draft law "On Transparency of Foreign Influence" into force.

Photo: rferl