Georgia: Drop repressive ‘foreign agents’ law

Last update: 18 April 2024
Georgia: Drop repressive ‘foreign agents’ law

“Attempts by Georgia’s ruling party to reintroduce a so-called ‘foreign agents’ law are of the utmost concern. The move clearly intends to silence independent and critical voices and would deal a huge blow to those who work tirelessly to protect and promote human rights, including PEN Georgia. PEN International stands in solidarity with Georgia’s fearless writers, journalists and civil society activists and urge parliament to reject such repressive legislation.” Ma Thida, Chair of PEN International’s Writers in Prison Committee.

17 April 2024: Georgia’s parliament should reject a Russia-style ‘foreign agents’ law that would severely restrict the rights to freedom of expression and association, PEN International and PEN Georgia said today. If adopted, the law would stifle civic space and independent media, threatening individuals and groups working to uphold the rule of law.

On 3 April 2024, Georgia’s ruling party, Georgian Dream, announced it would reintroduce a repressive ‘foreign agents’ law adopted by Georgia’s parliament in its first hearing in March 2023, and subsequently withdrawn following mass protests in Tbilisi. The draft law was formally registered by parliament’s Bureau on 8 April 2024, and parliament’s Legal Issue Committee started deliberations on 15 April. The following day, MPs voted to move the draft law along for further debate.

If the law is adopted, organisations receiving more than 20% of annual funding from sources outside Georgia would have two months to register as ‘organisations pursuing the interests of a foreign power’ and face onerous reporting requirements. Failure to register would be punishable by fines of up to 25,000 GEL (approximately 8,700 EUR). The law further authorises Georgia’s Ministry of Justice to conduct ‘thorough investigations’ to ensure the organisations comply with the law.

Attempts by Georgian Dream to reintroduce the ‘foreign agents’ law generated a national and international outcry, with many pointing out similarities with Russia’s draconian legislation, which has been systematically used as a tool by the Russian authorities to muzzle civil society. Georgia’s president herself criticized Georgian Dream’s move, accusing the government of deliberately sabotaging the country’s EU membership bid.

Parliament is set to hold the third and final hearing of the draft law on 17 May, though national organisations fear the process may be brought forward following mass protests.

On 10 April, PEN Georgia issued a statement condemning the draft law, which has been signed by 117 writers, translators, publishers, literary critics and literature managers at the time of writing. PEN International and PEN Georgia urge the Georgian authorities to abide by their national and international obligations to uphold the rights to freedom of expression and association, and to firmly reject the draft ‘foreign agents’ law and any other attempts to introduce similar legislation.

Notes to editors:

For further details contact Aurélia Dondo, Head of Europe and Central Asia Region at PEN International: [email protected]