PACE on foreign agent law in Georgia: We call on parties not to support it
“The Foreign Influence Transparency Bill proposed by the People’s Power movement raises some concerns about its compatibility with democratic and human rights standards,” PACE rapporteurs Georgia Claude Kern and Edith Estrella said.
“We call on all political factions [of Georgia] not to support this bill, the adoption of which will have dire consequences,” they stressed.
On February 16, US State Department spokesman Ned Price said that such a law would pose a potential threat to Georgia’s Euro-Atlantic integration. According to Price, the law is based not on the American, but on the Russian and Hungarian registration acts.
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Deputies who broke from from the ruling Georgian Dream party and founded the People’s Power movement will initiate a bill on “Transparency of Foreign Influence in Parliament”. It will affect the activities of organizations operating with foreign funding.
According to this bill, Georgian NGOs receiving money from foreign sources will have to enter a register of “foreign agents”. According to former public defender Sozar Subari, this will be a Western analogue of financial transparency and has nothing to do with the Russian model.
According to Guram Macharashvili, one of the leaders of People’s Power, they believe that, based on the principles of openness and transparency, the public should know not only the sources of income of politicians who make decisions in the state, but also the income of NGOs and the media, since they influence public decisions and participate in the formation of public opinion or take an active part in the discussions held by the legislative and executive authorities when adopting laws or decisions.
What does the Russian law on “foreign agents” mean?
Vladimir Putin signed an amendment to the law on “foreign agents” on February 25, 2021.
The law on “foreign agents” signed by Putin on February 24 applies equally to media outlets and individuals and provides for fines of up to 2,500 rubles [about $34] for individuals and up to 500,000 rubles [about $6,800] for organizations.
When the law on registration of foreign agents in Russia was passed, the American version was also mentioned, with Russia arguing that America does the same thing.
The law was first adopted in 2012 during Putin’s third presidential term and has since undergone several changes. Putin decided to pass this law in response to the February 2012 protests, accusing foreign governments of encouraging and funding the protests.
The law requires foreign-assisted NGOs which the Russian government considers politically active to identify themselves as “foreign agents” and register with the audit service.
Recent amendments to the law target foreign-funded media outlets. Among them is the Russian-language Radio Liberty, as well as six other Russian-language news services, and Current Time, a joint media project between Voice of America and Radio Liberty. After the invasion of Ukraine, the ranks of “foreign agents” were replenished by the publications Meduza and Novaya Gazeta.
Since the end of 2020, changes in the law allow the Russian government to classify individual journalists as “foreign agents” and impose restrictions on them.